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An unwritten estate plan may cause confusion later

Many people in Michigan may believe that it is not necessary for them to put their estate plan on paper. They have made their wishes known to their spouse and other relatives, so when the time comes, their assets will be quickly and quietly distributed according to their wishes, right? So why go through the time of writing up a will, trust or both with an estate planning attorney?

To borrow a saying about contracts, an oral estate plan may not be worth the paper it’s written on. Just as with a “handshake” contract, if there is ever a dispute about the estate plan, there is no document to refer to. It could be difficult to convince the probate court judge to accept an oral estate plan, leading him or her to declare that you died intestate. Then, state law determines how your estate is distributed.

As with any conversation, different people may interpret or remember what was said differently. Also, some heirs may claim that you left them more than you actually did. And you will not be around to resolve the dispute.

Finally, not figuring out the extent of your assets can cause serious problems. A good estate plan includes plans for everything, including retirement accounts, bank accounts, investments and real estate. If you do not consider all of these, there could be problems later.

Preparing an estate plan need not be overly difficult. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you through the process, giving you peace of mind in the bargain.

Source: The Washington Post, “Put your estate plan on paper before it’s too late,” Michelle Singletary, March 20, 2014

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