Estate Planning Horror Stories
Welcome to October everyone! It’s Halloween month and so far, I’ve come across some scary things! In this blog post I discuss why it’s very important to do your research about who is drafting your documents.
It has been a little over a year since I started my solo practice focusing on Wills and Trusts as well as business law. So far, about 20% of my clients ask me to do a trust review for them. And about 99% of the time, those trusts are either drafted by a non-attorney or drafted by the clients themselves using some Do-It-Yourself method. And out of the 99%, 100% are drafted incorrectly, which could cause grave harm later on and very costly to rectify.
One client, who reached out to me, had their documents drafted by a suspended attorney (a suspended attorney is not an attorney). The “attorney” failed to draft the trust transfer deeds correctly, thus title to the client’s real property was taken improperly. Further, the drafter failed to mention to the client the proper formalities in regards to making amendments to their documents and how to fund their trust. When I reviewed the documents, the client had inserted their own handwritten changes on the originals as well as additional pages to the trust.
Why is this so bad? It allows the trust to be questioned and opened to litigation once the settlors have passed. Improper amendments, inconsistent statements, handwriting on the drafted documents can create an issue and the possibility of the documents being contested by the beneficiaries or others that may have in interest in the settlor’s estate. Litigation is costly. It’s best to avoid it by having your estate planning documents drafted by a trusted professional.
As for the failure to inform the client on how to properly fund their trust, the deeds transferring the client’s real property were incomplete and the drafter failed to mention to the client the importance of titling assets in the name of the trust. Leaving assets out of the trust leave them open to Probate, what you’re ultimately trying to avoid by setting up your Trust and other estate planning documents.
As for clients that used Do-It-Yourself methods of creating their estate planning documents, I advise them most, if not all, DIY methods are not guaranteed to be legally sufficient. In order for their estate planning documents to be considered legally sufficient, I counsel the client to have a legal professional re-do the documents for them, for peace of mind.
For the sake of your loved ones and for all your hard work establishing your estate, it’s not worth leaving loopholes in your estate planning documents. That would be a huge nightmare (and definitely a horror story for me) for your loved ones to have to deal with once you are no longer here.
Contact the Law Office of Ishajeet K. Kakkar for your estate planning needs!