An estate plan is an important part of one’s plan for the future. Many realize that they need the assistance of an experienced and qualified attorney to assist them in their efforts. Unfortunately, some folks will cut corners in their estate planning efforts in an effort to save a few bucks or because they think they are as smart as or smarter than their estate planning lawyer when it comes to drafting documents or both.
Even with persons who were prudent enough to have their original plans created with the help of their estate planning attorney, some think it is ok to make changes to their plan on their own. A case just decided by the California Court of Appeals in Sacramento shows that this form of self-help also is not a wise decision.
In a unanimous decision, the court in Pena v. Dey rejected as inadequate an attempted amendment of a trust by the client who interlineated in handwriting and used Post-It notes to make changes to his trust. The court stated such methods were not in compliance with the terms of the trust and therefore were not effective.
Taking shortcuts may make sense when the outcome should something go wrong, like not following a recipe, is not that significant. It is one thing to have a bad meal. It is quite another to ruin the plan for protecting your future, your family and your loved ones. The effects are compounded when, as in this recent case, the errors are not discovered until after the person who made them has died and now cannot be corrected.
In the Pena case, it took a trip to the trial court and appellate court to find out the bad news!