The approaching specter of death is something people often avoid, either by not making an estate plan or not updating their estate plan. Then, when it is near, it suddenly becomes necessary to make updates or changes to the plan. Often, these changes are due to family circumstances (those kids your last will left in your sister’s care now have children of their own to whom you would like to leave gifts). They can also be due to changes in the law and changes in your assets.
Can You Make Last Minute Changes to Your Estate?
Absolutely! With caveats, of course. In order for a will to be valid in Utah, it must be made by someone who is over 18, is of sound mind, it must be signed by the testator or under their direction, and it must be signed by two witnesses. It is generally a good practice to have the will signed by two disinterested witnesses (individuals who are not receiving anything from the estate). So long as you meet those requirements, you are able to make, and make changes to, an estate.
However, simply speaking your will to someone from your deathbed does not make for a valid will. While you could hope that your family would honor your wishes and manage your property based on your spoken directions, they will not be bound to do so as they would be bound by a will. Further, if your directions are different than your previous will or intestate succession, your heirs even if they want to cooperate may find themselves frustrated in their goals by the government.
Many deathbed wills are challenged due to testamentary capacity or whether the person making the will was of sound mind at the time the will was made. Questions regarding whether they knew what they were doing or were under the undue influence of drugs and persuasion of caretakers abound.
Determining whether someone has testamentary capacity likely hinges on whether they know who is in their family and that those people would be the normal heirs of their estate. It also means showing that they have a clear understanding of the changes they are making and the likely impacts of those changes.
Likely Legal Challenges
While estates can be changed at the last minute and often are, if the changes significantly benefit one party over another or change the will in unexpected ways, a legal challenge is likely. Legal challenges to an estate are a cost that the estate and other beneficiaries have to bear, so taking steps to prevent these challenges can save your family, and those to whom you want to give your assets, significant stress and frustration.
Even if you have waited until the last minute to make your will, an estate attorney can help you take steps to ensure the validity of your will and that your choices will be honored. Choosing the right plan of action will be very specific to the assets in your estate and the end goal you want to accomplish. The experienced trust and estates planning team from Dunn Law Firm have helped individuals craft estates that take many different forms. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.