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The start of the new year is a popular time for people to re-examine their relationships and sometimes revise existing estate plans to reflect any changes in those relationships. But estate plan modifications can be made at any time of the year as well.

New York and New Jersey estate planning attorneys must consider a client’s family relationships, tax considerations, goals for the future and financial security of their children, as well as any future potential will contest when drafting or modifying a comprehensive estate plan. One problem that can arise is when the scheduled distribution of non-probate assets, like an IRA, which is referred to in the will conflicts with the terms of the will.
In a nutshell, a last will and testament is a document created by an attorney that designates who the maker (or “testator”) wants to get their property after death. The property referred to in the will is known as probate property. In order to transfer probate property, the will goes through the probate court process after the testator’s death.

Not all property passes through a will. Sometimes, there are reasons to create living trusts which allow trust property to bypass the probate court process and pass to the intended beneficiary in a faster, less costly, and private manner.
In addition to trust property, there are other non-probate assets that pass outside the will after death without the need for court intervention. Examples include jointly owned property with a right of survivorship, retirement accounts or life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries, and certain bank accounts. Generally, these non-probate assets are transferred seamlessly, but occasionally a glitch may occur.

One example is the case of the father whose will reportedly left inherited IRAs for each of his children but then specifically left one son out of his will, noting in the will that he had already received his inheritance. While it is possible to disinherit a child, great care must be taken in doing so to avoid estate administration problems or a will contest down the line.
In the instant case, the father failed to change the excluded son’s name on the IRA beneficiary designation form. The excluded son hasn’t been seen or heard from in years, causing a problem with distributing the IRA–a problem that could have been avoided by simply filling out a change of beneficiary designation form. The form cannot be changed by the executor after death.
If you need assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
With offices in Staten Island, New York and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of the state interest planning in administration.