Done right, death-bed revisions may save their families income and estate taxes and prevent misunderstandings and administrative hassles. If not handled carefully, though, it can leave a will open to legal challenges that can drag on for many years …
During one's final hours, people tend to review their last wishes to make sure all will be ok in the end. They may even decide to make some last minute changes. But while it is your Last Will, deathbed revisions can create dangerous challenges to your overall estate plan if not accomplished correctly.
The Wall Street Journal considered this matter in a recent article titled “Changing a Will at the Last Minute”
As you can imagine, a Last Will is an important document. Not surprisingly, drafting a Last Will “on the fly” or redrafting one from the hospital bed raises the red flag. Since your Last Will expresses your final intentions in black and white, if there is any room to question the truth, seriousness, or sanity (yes, that is a big one) of your black and white intentions, then the entire plan can be thrown out. Against this backdrop, pause for a moment of serious self-reflection before making any changes to your Last Will under circumstances that could attract greater scrutiny later. For example, ask yourself “why do I need to make this change now and not before?”
The simple truth, of course, is that your last-minute revision can be utterly intentional and utterly necessary. For one, our thoughts about life, family and charity likely become crystal clear when the end becomes real. There may be every reason in the world certain changes must be made now and not before. Then again, the legal environment changes constantly and sometimes the Last Will must be updated to save the family fortune from taxes or protect loved ones.
Bottom line: there has to be a seriousness and thoroughness to your planning even until the end. Last minute revisions to your Last Will might be required, but they must be done correctly or risk causing more harm than good.
In the end, successful estate planning at any stage means working closely with competent estate planning counsel, someone who has “seen it all.” This is not a “do-it-yourself project.” For that matter, proper planning now may lead you away from the need to annotate or change your Last Will later.
Reference: The Wall Street Journal (November 10, 2013) “Changing a Will at the Last Minute”