Ask Ed: Estate Planning Dangers When Codicils Change Wills

Submit your estate questions here. I will select and answer them on my blog. I will not mention names if you wish to remain anonymous.

Advisor Question:

Clients ask what’s involved in updating or changing a will. It should be an inexpensive and simple process, right?

Ed’s answer:

That depends. Is the client 89 years of age and in a hospital? Does she want to disinherit her children for not visiting her?

In such cases, a lawyer must prove the client had capacity to make a will.

This may entail making several appointments to meet with the client independently and confidentially.

The lawyer must ask questions as if making a new will. These questions would include:

• What are your assets and liabilities?

• Who would you normally want to benefit under your will?

• Why are you making the changes to your will?

• Are the reasons for making changes justified?

• Should the client be cautioned about the risks of a will contest?

• Can a doctor give medical evidence on capacity?

Changing a will involves reviewing your client’s estate planning goals.

Clients think simple will changes do not require a lawyer.

However, any will change requires a review of the client’s estate planning.