Your last will and testament is supposed to contain your final wishes as to the disposition of your estate. This legal document is one of the most important plans you will ever make, and you should take considerable care when devising it.
The following are some matters that you should take into account when making your will, as well as addressing concerns about whether any other person can make changes to it.
Power of Attorney
It is not uncommon for a person to become incapacitated after making their last will and testament. If they appointed someone to serve as their power of attorney once incapacitated, or the court appoints a power of attorney, that individual cannot change the terms of your will, per se.
However, prior to your death, they may sell assets which could impact the terms of your will. The bottom line is that the only person who can change the terms of the will itself is you.
In your will, you will name an executor, often called a personal representative, to take charge of your estate after your death. While many people name a relative as executor, in the case of complicated or very large estates it may prove wiser to name a financial or legal professional to this role.
The executor cannot change the terms of your will, and is bound to follow your intent as evidenced in the will. However, you may not know the state of your financial affairs at the time of your death, and the executor may have to make unanticipated decisions. For example, you may have intended to leave your house to your children; but if you spent your last years in a nursing home, it is possible the house must be sold to pay for that.
It is also possible that the terms of the will are unclear – especially if the will was put together with a kit purchased online, rather than by a Chester County wills and estates lawyer. Such a lack of clarity means the executor must seek legal counsel to determine how to proceed.
Challenging a Will
Although no one can actually change your will, that does not mean the terms of the will cannot be challenged after your death. The only people who may challenge the will are your children, your spouse, other heirs, creditors, and any person or entity with a claim to property involved in your estate. The challenger must have standing to challenge the will, which means they are either a beneficiary or non-beneficiary, but might inherit should the court rule your will invalid.
While you cannot foresee who might challenge your will after you are gone, based on family feuds and other such issues you may have an idea that someone may attempt to do so. This is why having a proactive plan put in place for the disbursement of your assets after your passing is so important.
Chester County Wills and Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients with All Aspects of Estate Planning
If you are in need of estate planning, contact the experienced Chester County wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call 610-565-3701 or complete an online form for a free consultation. We have offices in West Chester and Media, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area, including those in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.