Many people who receive inheritances from deceased loved ones are honored to simply have been remembered by the persons whose estates provided them with the inheritance. In California, a person may be an estate beneficiary through a number of testamentary devices, all of which a decedent must prepare prior to the end of their life. While in some cases a beneficiary may be aware of what their inheritance will be, in other situations a beneficiary may not know that they will receive an inheritance until their loved one has passed on.
Problems can arise when individuals who believe that they should be beneficiaries of the decedents’ estates find, upon the deaths of the estate holders, that they have not been included therein. These misunderstandings and bruised expectations can lead to messy and sometimes hurtful disputes between family members. They can also lead to challenges to decedents’ wills, trusts and other estate planning tools.
Clarity and completeness in estate planning documents are critical to preserving the intentions of the person whose estate will be distributed pursuant to those instructions. This can mean enumerating exactly what each beneficiary will take from the individual’s estate, as well as including provisions of disinheritance if the estate planner does not want certain individuals to benefit from their end-of-life wealth.
When ambiguity exists in an estate plan, the door of conflict opens at the end of the planner’s life. Individuals can take proactive steps to prevent challenges to their wills and to preserve harmony between their intended beneficiaries by creating clear and cohesive estate plans. Attorney Michael Sawamura is available to help new and existing clients achieve this important goal in 2018.