Category Archives: Blog Series

Estate Planning Pitfalls

Estate Planning Pitfalls Part 2


Last month I started what I consider one of my most important posts –a series regarding the

Estate Planning Pitfalls

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

most common pitfalls I see in Estate Planning.

Part two of my multi-part blog series discusses the pitfall of failing to keep a current/updated Will. This is probably one of the easiest pitfalls to avoid and the most common blunder I see by other people’s clients.  I tell my clients to come see me to review everything EVERY three years whether they think they need it or not —to encourage this practice I personally do not charge for these “check-ins” but even if your attorney charges you, go –it’s money well spent.   

Case Study:  Estate Planning Pitfall #2– Failing to Maintain an Updated Will

I was hired by a young man whose father had recently passed after a lengthy battle with illness, he had two half-siblings

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

out of state, the decedent had some property here, some property out of state, an ex-girlfriend living in his home.  All a recipe for a convoluted case at best case.  This will be compounded because although Father had resided in Florida for quite some time his antiquated Will was drafted in another state nearly a decade before his death.

To add insult to injury, because the Will was self-prepared on a form purchased at an office supply store it provided for very specific bequests to each of his 3 children and a close friend.  It did not provide for his residuary Estate —what could be called the “everything else” clause.  And a decade later all but one of the properties left to his beneficiaries was long gone and his “everything else” is everything and now left to chance.  The Will also provided for a Personal Representative who lived 2000 miles away and who likely will not want to be in charge of the circus that is about to commence with a bunch of heirs who don’t have a relationship and no clear instructions.

This case hasn’t ended yet but it’s going to be a long haul and could have been very easily avoided if he had just updated his Will prior to passing.

And so, even with a seemingly simple estate—say, you “just” own a bank account and a house—it’s crucial to keep an updated will or a living trust or otherwise Probate Proof yourself.   These scenarios can be avoided with the advice of an Estate Planning Attorney –so have your Estate Planning reviewed every three years or when life changes happen [beneficiaries pass away, children are born, divorce occurs, assets are sold, to name a few] and failing to do so can have unintended consequences.

Estate Planning Pitfalls

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

You’ve worked way too hard to leave your estate plan to chance. Stop procrastinating and protect your family and loved ones and your hard-earned legacy today. However, when doing so, there are numerous pitfalls of which you should be aware.

A simple Google search can reveal some harrowing examples of those pitfalls. This is part one of a multi-part series of what can happen when Estate Planning goes wrong:

Pitfall Possibility #1: Picking An Inappropriate Personal Representative

Are there any long-standing feuds in your family? Does your anticipated Personal Representative live near you? Who will handle your final affairs in an appropriate and fair manner?

These are all questions to spend some time thinking about when determining the best person or persons to act on your behalf after your death. Read on to review an example of what can happen if these things aren’t considered properly:

“When you’re dealing with families, things can get complicated—quick. We see so many cases come through with unresolved feuds between siblings. It’s one of the most common causes of litigation over an estate.

I handled one case where a client’s sister had been named the executor of their father’s estate, despite the fact that she lived in a different state than both her father and brother, whom she’d been fighting with for years.

Ideally, in a case like that, the parents would have named an objective, independent personal representative—like another family member or a trusted friend—as their estate’s executor, instead of one of the kids.

But that didn’t happen here.

After the father passed away, our client started to take care of a few things around the house, not realizing he didn’t have the legal right to do so. Once his sister arrived, there were accusations about items being removed—and a long legal battle ensued.

Ultimately, even though the estate was to be divided evenly, our client’s sister had all of the decision-making power to decide how that happened, so long as the monetary value was equal. There is no way to challenge her decisions in court, and we’re still waiting to see whether or not the siblings can put their feelings aside and divide the estate fairly.

To avoid contentious situations like this, we counsel clients to consider the complicated dynamics between the family members named in a will. If there’s even a possibility of an estate causing fights or damaging relationships, we encourage them to look for an independent personal representative who can settle things fairly.”

                                                    —Tom Gisriel, attorney at Pessin Katz Law, Baltimore, Md.

Mr. Gisriel finishes his story with some valuable advice: Consider complicated dynamics between family members and think about an independent Personal Representative if those dynamics will damage relationships –a neutral family friend? Your Attorney?

Follow the blog, so you do not miss the next chapters of Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Avoid these headaches by putting your Estate Plan in motion today by meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney where you reside.

Heidi S. Webb provides competent, experienced and trusted Estate Planning and Probate Estate Administration services to clients in the Daytona Beach, Florida area. Call today to schedule your free legal consultation.

Original Article with “case studies” located at