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Correcting problems in estate planning can be difficult

Connecticut is one of the richest states in the nation and home to thousands of personal estates. People looking to take care of their families after the end of life often make their efforts more effective when they act quickly and decisively.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, ended many lives unexpectedly and prematurely. Many families who had to recover from the loss of a loved one were faced with another problem: how to manage their late relatives' estates.

One widow found that her husband's retirement accounts were bound to his mother and brother instead of her and their children. The issue seemed a clear mistake, as her husband had made her the primary beneficiary of his bank accounts with the children as contingent recipients.

Fortunately, the widow's attorney was able to compile the late man's changes to his finances upon marriage and, after "extensive negotiations," managed to divert the retirement funds to her and the children. "Everyone wanted the money to go to the surviving spouse and the kids, which was the right thing to do, but there were hoops to jump through," according to the attorney.

The same lawyer served several other widows in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, reported a key lesson from the experience. Most families are not ready for an unexpected disaster, especially when couples split household responsibilities and only one is in charge of finances. This can cause financial puzzles that estate planning during both spouses' lifetime would avoid.

Estate planning is often easier and more effective with an attorney. Lawyers can go through processes part by part to make sure families are taken care of in the case of an unexpected tragedy.

Source: Barron's, "Learning from Tragedy," Abby Schultz, March 26, 2018

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