Don’t Frankenstein Your Trust

diy estate planning estate planning attorney special needs trust trust funding Oct 23, 2023
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DIY changes to a solid estate plan can often cause unintended consequences or even revoke your entire plan... 😱

“It’s alive!” Dr. Frankenstein exclaimed, watching his creation come to life. His monstrous creation cobbled together cadaver parts, ran electricity through the entire body, and came to life. This does NOT work with your Revocable Living Trust or Last Will and Testament, so please don’t Frankenstein your estate plan. It will only wreak havoc and destruction on your plans.

I’ve seen this too many times in my decades as an estate planning attorney. Rather than risk additional attorney fees, people will try to make alterations to their documents on their own. Unfortunately, this leads to horrendous results that are definitely not what people intend, including the overall estate plan being completely destroyed.

Here are the big, often fatal, mistakes people make when trying to change their own legal documents after they had been legally executed:

  • Crossing out a name and writing in a new one because someone was married/divorced and they changed their name;
  • Crossing out a name and writing in a new one because you changed your mind about an agent (trustee or executor) or that person passed on;
  • Taking pages out of a document and inserting a new page incorporating pages with the new language; and
  • Inserting pages with handwritten and signed amendments or changes.

This doesn’t work, and it may have the unintended effect of actually cancelling the entire plan. Several years ago, I had been working with a couple who were leaving everything in their revocable living trust to their grandson with special needs. They also had a special needs trust for the grandson for some specific purposes. When they asked about a specific change, I informed them that we needed to amend the trust, but instead of keeping their appointment, they used a Last Will and Testament template and then handwrote out the change they wanted. However, they used the standard Will language about revoking all previous plans, and so the only thing that was effective was the one change they wanted. The entirety of their plans were also revoked, everything ended up in probate, and the children were the next in line heir instead of the grandchild. (Video of the story “Anatomy of a Destroyed Estate Plan

If changes need to be made to your estate plan, have a professional handle the changes the right way to make sure your wishes are actually put in place… and that you don’t unintentionally unleash a destructive monster. If you need to update your estate plan, please let us know at 919-844-7993.

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