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Estate Planning Screw-Ups

Will your heirs be forced to do damage control because of your estate planning screw-ups?

If you make a mistake in your Will, you might cause some problems for your heirs. Will you care about that? Probably not. After all, you’ll be dead. But someone, most likely the executor or the administrator of your estate, will care. They’re the one who will have to do damage control.

I had a client recently who came to me looking for help in a situation like this.

This client was the administrator of the estate of one of his family members who had just passed away without a Will. The person who died didn’t have any children, so his nieces and nephews were considered next of kin, or his “heirs at law,” under the laws of intestacy in Georgia.

The client wanted to know what he could do because one of the nieces was going to receive $20,000 from this estate. This niece was receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, so this windfall was going to cause her to lose her disability checks.

It’s a classic unintended consequence of estate planning without the big picture in mind—or, in this case, no estate planning at all.

What were my client’s options? There was just one. The niece had to spend the money in the same month she received it so she wouldn’t lose her SSI benefits. Once the money was in her hands, there was nothing she could do other than spend it or lose access to her benefits. This gives “use it or lose it” a whole new meaning.

In this client’s situation, there was a workaround. It wasn’t great, but it was there. In many cases, there are no workarounds. Let’s say that your goal is to avoid probate and you name beneficiaries on every account, but you forget to add beneficiaries to one account. What happens then? Your executor must probate your estate in order to gain access to that one asset. He or she must go through the exact same process as if they had to probate for everything you own. There’s nothing that you can do after someone passes away. If they haven't properly titled all of their assets and something falls into their probate estate, you have no recourse but to go through the probate court.

These are just a few of the many problems that your heirs will be forced to solve after you pass away if your estate plan isn’t structured the right way. There are many more. That’s why it’s so important to get help from attorneys who specialize in estate planning. When we know your goals, we will know exactly how to achieve them. Your heirs will thank you.

Are you ready to make sure that your estate plan does what you want it to? Are you ready to avoid estate planning screw-ups? Kimbrough Law can help. Call 706.850.6910 to schedule a confidential consultation.


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