In this Elder Law Minute, Wes Coulson discusses the dangers of handwriting changes in your estate plan.
There used to be a show on cable TV that I would watch occassionally (don’t ask me why) called What Not To Wear, and they would go through people — they would give them a fashion makeover, and the first thing they would do is look at their wardrobe and say, “woo, you should not be wearing these things.” Lesson there is, sometimes it’s important, just as important sometimes maybe even more so, to not do things wrong than to do things write. So, what’s that got to do with estate planning?
Let me tell you, a common and can be a terrible mistake, is people who have estate planning documents prepared and then if something changes, somebody dies and they want to substitute somebody else or they want to add something in, they will get that document out and they will cross out language and write in other language.
That is a terrible mistake, because what you’ve done is you have now invalidated the entire document, because people can no longer tell what you wanted. Wills, powers of attorney, trusts all have requirements that they either be notarized or witnessed, or in some cases both, and when you scratch out and write things in, that’s not witnessed.
What you’ve done, what you’ve written in isn’t valid and by scratching things out, they don’t know if you did that or if a next door neighbor did it for a prank, or somebody who didn’t like what you wrote got ahold of it and did it, so it invalidates that part too.
Not trying to give everyone extra fees, but please don’t scratch things out and write things in on your important legal documents.
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Coulson Elder Law is dedicated to providing families in the St. Louis area with their Elder Law needs. Our practice areas include Asset Preservation Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid Eligibility, Alzheimer’s Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning and more. We understand the financial challenges you may face as you and your loved ones grow older. At Coulson Elder Law, our clients’ well-being is our number one priority. For immediate help, call (618) 632-7000 (IL) or (314) 567-9292 (MO), or Contact Us and we will get in touch as soon as possible.