Why You Need Your Estate Plan in Writing

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January 10, 2019
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Why You Need Your Estate Plan in Writing

A few states technically accept oral Wills, as opposed to written Wills, under limited circumstances. However, proving the validity of oral promises can be almost impossible, pitting supposed heirs’ words against each other. That is exactly what happened in the case of famed actor Marlon Brando’s estate.

marlon brando, why you need your estate plan in writing

Brando’s housekeeper, Angela Borlaza, claimed that Brando’s written Will, which didn’t name her, had been superseded by Brando’s oral promise to leave Borlaza his house. Rather than ultimately getting Brando’s house. Borlaza received a settlement from the estate of $125,000; it isn’t likely that she would have ultimately prevailed on her claim, given that Brando did, in fact, leave a written Will.

If you have some ideas about how you might want your estate assets to pass when you die, putting those thoughts in writing, in a Will or Trust, can avoid lengthy and costly battles after your death. In the absence of valid estate planning documents, courts follow state laws when determining how assets should be distributed. Those laws may not reflect what you actually want to have happen. Taking the time to complete your estate plan now is the best way to make sure your wishes are honored.

The good news is that your estate plan is not carved in stone. After you’ve signed your Will or Trust, you can – and should – revisit it periodically to make sure it still reflects your goals and wishes. You can update those distribution wishes through a codicil to a Will or an amendment to a Trust as often as you’d like, or you can revoke the original documents and create new ones.

Some common reasons to update your estate planning documents include:

– Marriage or divorce
– Birth or adoption of a child
– Death of a named personal representative or trustee
– Death of a beneficiary
– Change in state of residence
– Change in financial situation

Whether you need to create your first Will or Trust or want to amend existing documents, we can help! Contact us to learn more or to request a consultation.