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The risk people face when making 11th-hour estate plan updates

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Colorado estate plans typically include specific details that reflect someone’s family circumstances, finances and health. As an individual’s life evolves, they will likely need to go back and revisit their existing documents.

Both living documents addressing medical or financial matters and testamentary documents discussing what happens when someone dies may eventually require revisions. Common changes include naming a different agent, adding or removing beneficiaries, including different assets and even integrating new documents into the estate plan as someone’s concerns shift when they age.

Many adults with existing estate plans will review their documents every few years and continue updating them until they die. However, it’s important for retired testators, in particular, to understand that those last-minute revisions could later lead to probate litigation.

Why families may question someone’s final revisions

Those who repeatedly update their estate plans help reduce the likelihood of a challenge later because they ensure that the documents are accurate and compliant with state law. For some people, revisions made in the last years of their lives are the reason why their family members end up challenging their estate plan in Colorado probate court.

Sometimes, family members will take the matter to court because they claim that the last revisions occurred when the testator had already experienced significant cognitive decline. If someone no longer has testamentary capacity because of dementia or other medical conditions associated with advanced age, the courts may agree that they did not have the legal authority to change their estate planning paperwork.

In a smaller subset of cases, people challenge those provisions because they think other people may have influenced them. Caregivers and family members could pressure someone and exert undue influence on the estate planning process. Older adults who depend on others for daily care needs are vulnerable to coercion and the pressure people may apply if they want to inherit a large portion of the estate.

Those who intend to update their estate plans later in life could reduce the likelihood of future challenges by seeing a doctor for an evaluation before making drastic changes to their estate planning paperwork while already at an advanced age. The records of their meeting can help affirm their capacity. Others may want to cooperate with specific witnesses who can later affirm that they were of sound mind when updating their documents.

Learning about the situations that can undermine someone’s testamentary authority after their death can help people maintain control over their resources and their legacies.