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Can my estate plan include unborn beneficiaries?

We can't predict the future nor can we rewrite our estate plans every time anything happens at all in our lives that could affect a decision in our plan. It is important that estate plans prepare for the unknown through careful drafting and alternative terms.

Here is a case-in-point.

A grandfather's plan for his grandchildren

A grandfather set up a will providing for his grandchildren by leaving a large portion of his estate to them. In this situation, the grandfather wanted to leave much of his estate to his grandchildren, the intended beneficiaries.

As with many grandparents, the will set up a graduated schedule for the inheritance, allowing the children to access the funds for college at the age of 18. Then, the children would have access to more at 21, 25 and then again when they turned 30.

A common issue

The grandfather's plan in the scenario is very typical. However, there was a problem: the grandfather's will failed to include his grandchildren who were not yet born at the time when he drafted the will. Thus, the children who were later born were excluded from the will as beneficiaries.

The parents indicated that since the grandfather did not include this provision in his will, he did not want to include any unborn grandchildren as beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, since the grandfather had already passed away, there was no way to truly ask him to find out his real intent and confirm or discredit what the parents suggested.

Avoiding this important mistake

The importance of selecting an experienced estate planning attorney is the moral of this story.

If the grandfather came to a skilled estate planning attorney and indicated his desire to leave assets to his grandchildren, the attorney will know the importance of inquiring about his intentions regarding possible future unborn grandchildren and any other possible contingencies to the issue.

The goal of any skilled estate planning attorney is to draft a solid, concrete instrument in order to avoid possible disputes or questions about the testator's intentions down the line.

By including clear language in his will in the case-in-point involving the grandfather referenced above, unnecessary tensions and conflicts among the parents and family wouldn't likely been moot when the probate process initiated.

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