I wrote the book on Minnesota probate.

An outdated estate plan leads to chaos

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2019 | Estate Planning |

Legendary musician Barry White left behind more than just a legacy of iconic music. His estate planning blunder became a cautionary tale to others in his position. The lesson is clear: Do not wait too long to make changes to your will, especially if your health is suffering.

A good rule of thumb for testamentary updates is every three to five years, but major life events call for immediate evaluation. If not, you may end up placing your entire estate in the wrong hands, much like Barry White did. Make sure you review your plan at these crucial points.

Change in marital status

When your marriage is coming to a tragic end, you need to update your plan to reflect this change. It is important to follow through with the dissolution of previous marriages. Minnesota estate law grants a legal spouse certain privileges in the event of your death, regardless of the emotional state of your relationship.

If the decedent does not designate a personal representative, the responsibility automatically falls to the deceased’s spouse. In the case of Barry White, his divorce was never final, despite his subsequent nine-year involvement with a live-in girlfriend. This left his estate under the supervision of his estranged wife, who was not exactly generous in providing for White’s new paramour.

Although his marriage status never legally changed, White still could have rectified the situation for his loved ones if he had made the appropriate changes to his will. The one stipulation that removes executorship from the decedent’s spouse is the official designation of someone else. In other words, White could have remained legally married to his previous partner while still giving his current partner authority over his estate.

Birth of children

Another costly mistake is failing to define new beneficiaries when you have children. Without this allocation, your children may be at the mercy of the executor. This did not work out well for White’s daughter Denise.

The father-daughter pair did not discover his paternity until late in life. Though he welcomed her into his family, he never made the official change to include her in his will. She received a smattering of checks for about a decade before the income suddenly stopped. The elapsed time made it more difficult for her to establish a legal claim.

The passing of a loved one is a trying time for family members. Updating your will eases the stress and burden during this difficult period. It also ensures that you provide for your family the way you want to.