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Jack and Doris wanted to divide their property equally between their three children. The house should to go to daughter Mary who loved it, and the rest of their estate should be apportioned equally between sons Bob and Francis.
Jack and Doris’s attorney drafted a will distributing the modest remainder to the sons and the attorney filed a beneficiary deed leaving the house to Mary. A beneficiary deed – or transfer-on-death deed – is a useful and efficient way to leave real estate to heirs without going through expensive and protracted probate proceedings.
Years passed. Jack died and, late in life, Doris was diagnosed with cancer. She had forgotten about the earlier plan. She wrote out a will leaving her property equally to her three children.
After Doris died, the children were unhappy to discover a conflict between the old beneficiary deed and the new handwritten will. The will was legally binding but, because beneficiary deeds take precedence, Mary ended up getting more than her parents had intended. She got the house through the beneficiary deed and then an additional one-third of the remaining property through the will. This was not what Jack and Doris had wanted and the inequity strained the relationship between the children.
Remember: Your estate plan is not a time capsule, preserving relics for future discovery. Be sure to talk to an attorney to update your plan in the event of illness or change in circumstances. Please feel free to contact us – we would be happy to help.
Philip M. Flanigan