I will occasionally have clients who wish to probate the will of a deceased parent or spouse, only to find that the will is very old; I think about fifty years old is the oldest I’ve had. This frequently causes difficulty in probate since many of the assumptions used in making the will are no longer valid, property addressed in specific bequests has become difficult to identify, and persons designated to serve as executor and trustee or to receive bequests may no longer be alive. Additionally, many times these wills were made under laws that have been drastically changed over the years or were made under a different state’s laws.
For example, just twenty years ago the large majority of estates were likely to be subject to estate taxes. But the current estate tax exemption amount is over $11 million per person. So all of the estate tax avoidance provisions in old wills is no longer necessary and can cause serious issues with distributing an estate.
So how old is your will? Does it need to be updated or at least reviewed by an attorney to ensure it will be as effective as you wish it to be?
This topic came to the forefront of my thought when I received an email from another attorney asking if I’d ever had a will older than the ones he found (some over 3000 years old). While not as old as the ones he found, this article may tickle your funny bone with strange bequests.