Estate Planning Pitfall: Your Estate is Tied Too Closely to Specific Gifts

Your will provides for the disposition of your assets upon your death and is designed to tie up loose ends in your estate. You may wish to include specific bequests to beneficiaries in your will, such as collectibles, jewelry, or art that you may wish to leave for your child.

However, it is important to be careful about making bequests that could lead to outcomes you do not intend. One of the more common ways this can happen is if you no longer own a specific asset when you pass away. Someone may want to leave for their child 100 shares of stock worth thousands of dollars at the time the will is drafted. However, if this person later sells the stock without updating the will, the child could be left with less than their parent intended.

Similarly, say someone bequeaths real estate to their son and life insurance proceeds to their daughter. However, in the years between creating the will and passing away, this person sells the home, invests the money from the sale of the home, and allows the life insurance policy to lapse.

One potential way this could go is for the two children to split the investment account, which may be what their parent would have wanted and intended. It’s also possible, though, that the parent intended for the investment account to go to the son since it was created using the money from selling the home. Their parent may have also already transferred other assets to the daughter and let the life insurance policy lapse on purpose. Instead of creating uncertainty by not leaving instructions, it’s best to make intentions clear in writing.

In situations such as these, leaving specific gifts to beneficiaries can have unintended results. It is important to keep in mind that you may no longer own certain assets that you had when you last wrote or updated your will. Make sure to review and update your will on a regular basis.

For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.