Our general advice is that provided children are old enough to understand and certainly with a spouse or other life partner, the plan should be discussed with them. Nothing leads more to family conflict and hard feelings than surprises that family members didn’t know what they were going to get when an individual died and their estate planning terms were disclosed to them for the first time.

Should An Estate Plan Include Plans For Death, Divorce, Bankruptcies Or Disabilities Of A Child Or Life Partner?

Those are items that most of our clients find very important, for example, in the event that a child were to predecease them, they want to have a clear understanding of who will inherit. Also if a child goes through a divorce, they often want protections that their child’s inheritance won’t be lost to a potential ex-spouse. For things like bankruptcy or disability of a child, likewise many of our clients want to make sure the inheritance is protected to provide for the child.

Can Mediation Or Arbitration Be Set Up In An Estate Plan If A Dispute Is Anticipated Between The Heirs?

Certainly, there are cases where that is appropriate. More often than not, you will not find an arbitration or mediation provision in a basic estate plan because a will or a trust will clearly spell out what the rules are and how assets will be passed along, whether the beneficiaries like the way the person who designed the plan decided to leave things or not. But occasionally, there are situations where you have more than one person acting together, who have to agree on things, and occasionally, in those types of situations, there will be provisions to deal with disagreements between them and resolving those disagreements.

How Can Someone Set Up A Business Succession Plan?

First of all, there is no such thing as a separate estate plan. A person just has one overall plan for their estate and how assets are going to be distributed and dissolved upon their death. Now, business succession planning is a specialized part of estate planning, and it would be dealt with separately from the basic will or trust that’s usually put in place first to set the foundation.

How Is An Estate Plan Or A Will Made Official And Legal?

It’s made official and legal by following the rules that the law provides. In the case of wills, in order for a will to be valid and legally binding, in almost all states, it needs to be in writing and signed in the presence of two witnesses, and sometimes a notary is required. In the case of a trust, in order for it to be valid, in almost all situations, it also must be in writing and signed, and it should be notarized as well. If those formalities are complied with, the documents are legally enforceable.

Can Someone Update Or Modify Their Will Or Estate Plan At Any Time?

The answer to that question is, generally, yes. A will can be modified and changed at any time during a person’s lifetime. If the estate plan uses what’s referred to as a revocable living trust, which is the mainstream trust vehicle that’s used, that’s also a document that can be changed at any time prior to the person’s incapacity or death. Certain things that are done in estate planning are, generally, in order to save estate taxes or to provide other types of protections above and beyond what ordinarily is done, and these are irrevocable trusts. These trusts, as a general rule, cannot so easily be changed at any time.

This article was originally published by Steve Spewak on EstatePlanMO.com. It is republished here with permission.