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Unintentionally Disinheriting Family Members

This edition of the Koldin Law Center E-Newsletter is part of a series about the role of an Elder Law Attorney. In this newsletter we continue the discussion about the planning process for preparing your Last Will and Testament

The Koldin Law Center, P.C. limits its practice to the specific field of Elder Law which includes estate planning and Medicaid law.

All prior newsletters are saved on our website. You can read them by clicking here.

The previous newsletters in this series compared how a general attorney would most likely handle preparing a Will versus how an Elder Law attorney would likely handle the initial client consultation discussion regarding preparing a Will.

Typical Will Consultation with an Elder Law Attorney

In addition to discussing the beneficiaries of your Will, the initial consultation at the Koldin Law Center would typically discuss:

  1. Options to avoid or minimize the need to Probate the Will
  2. Discuss if there are any special provisions that need to be included in the estate plan such as for family members with health issues or disability
  3. Accidentally disinheriting children and grandchildren
  4. Second Marriage complications
  5. Explain that a Will does not protect assets in the event of a long term illness and what planning can be done to accomplish protecting your life savings from the costs of long term care such as nursing home care.

In the previous newsletters in this series we discussed avoiding or minimizing probate and special beneficiary provisions you may want to include as part of your Last Will and Testament or as part of the beneficiary provisions of your Revocable or Irrevocable Trust.

While the goal is often to minimize or avoid probate, you must be careful not to accidentally override your intended estate distribution.

In a past newsletter in this series we discussed various ways to avoid probate such as (1) adding joint owners to your accounts or real property and (2) designating beneficiaries on your accounts.

In this newsletter we discuss how these probate avoidance methods can cause you to accidentally fully or partially disinherit family members.

Example: Tom Jones has total savings of $125,000 and has a Will that leaves $5,000 to each of his 4 grandchildren and the balance to his 3 children equally. Tom has $25,000 in a joint bank account with his son, Mike. Tom put Mike’s name on the account so that Mike could help him pay his bills. Tom has a brokerage account with $100,000 naming his 3 children as beneficiaries titled “Tom Jones TOD Mary Jones, Mike Jones, Peter Jones.” Tom lives in an apartment and doesn’t own any other assets.

Based on Tom’s Will, his intent is for a total of $20,000 to be distributed to his 4 grandchildren and $105,000 to be divided among his 3 children. In reality, his Will is meaningless. No assets are going to pass through Tom’s Will.

Toms’ son, Mike is going to inherit the $20,000 bank account because he is a joint owner.

Mary, Mike and Peter are going to inherit the brokerage account because they are designated as beneficiaries on the account.

The grandchildren are going to inherit nothing.

The grandchildren are cut out despite Tom’s stated intent in his Will because no assets are passing through the Will. Tom’s Will has become an empty promise to the grandchildren and Mike is receiving an extra $20,000 above Tom’s other 2 children because of the Joint Account.

Although people generally desire to avoid probating their Wills, they need to make sure that they avoid the problem of making empty promises in their Wills. Great care needs to be made when using Joint Accounts or designating beneficiaries on accounts.

A general practice attorney would most likely prepare Tom’s Will without further discussion and believe he/she is carrying out Tom’s wishes.

An Elder Law attorney, such as the Koldin Law Center, P.C., typically spends more time with the client reviewing how accounts are titled and whether the Will is being overridden by accounts having direct beneficiaries.

One solution to avoid probate and make sure all beneficiaries are covered is for Tom to establish either a Revocable Trust or Irrevocable Trust.

Instead of making accounts joint or designating beneficiaries on the accounts, he could title the bank and brokerage accounts in the name of his Trust and then designate his beneficiaries in the Trust document. Now, the grandchildren will receive their $20,000, the 3 children will inherit the balance equally, and probate will be avoided.

Both Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts avoid or minimize probate for real estate. Irrevocable Trusts can also protect your life savings from the costs of long term care. For a complete discussion of Trust planning, see our website by clicking here.

For more information about a Last Will and Testament, please visit our website by clicking here.

The next newsletter in this series will review how second marriages create complexity to your estate planning which can cause your children and grandchildren to become unintentionally disinherited.

At the Koldin Law Center, P.C., located in East Syracuse, New York, we have over 50 years of experience helping individuals plan for immediate crisis and long term care. Our attorneys are available to discuss your estate planning options, including the advantages and disadvantages of Revocable Trusts and Irrevocable Trusts, along with other estate planning considerations including a Will, Power of Attorney, and Health Care Proxy.

When the Koldin Law Center, P.C. handles a Medicaid case, we not only handle the entire application process, but we also review asset protection options with our clients. We review with our clients who are already in a Nursing Home options to protect some or all of their assets beyond merely establishing Medicaid eligibility.

We do not charge a fee for the initial consultation. We welcome your children, family attorney, accountant, and/or financial planner to be present at the initial consultation.

There is something you can do.

Our Attorneys are available to speak to your organization

Our Attorneys speak to groups throughout New York State as a public service. If you would like to arrange for one of our Attorneys to speak to your group, please contact our office.

We appreciate your referrals

We have been told by many clients who are in a crisis that they wish they had known about our firm much sooner. We are proud of the many families we have helped in times of crisis.

We are also proud of the many families we helped avoid financial crisis by doing estate planning in advance.

We all share the responsibility for making our family and friends aware of the planning options available to them.

Your referral to the Koldin Law Center could make a major difference in the lives of your family and friends if they are someday faced with a long term illness.

Remember that the Koldin Law Center offers many services for clients of all ages. Our services range from basic estate planning such as a simple will to complex estate planning including asset preservation planning.


E - Newsletter

Practice Areas

Basic Estate Planning

Trust Planning

Medicaid Planning And MedicaidApplications

Planning For Individuals With Disabilities

Probate And EstateAdministration