Nothing is certain in this world except for death and taxes. You may have heard this saying before, or another one bearing the same sentiment, and you probably never thought much about it, but it’s true; in fact, even though death may be certain, the estate plan surrounding that death is not. The need to fix a decedent’s estate plan may arise due to significant life changes such as divorce or remarriage, an increase or decrease in one’s financial status, or even a change in the laws surrounding estate planning, especially in the area of taxes. And, should such a change occur, the following paragraphs may help you or your loved ones through the process of fixing an estate plan.
If the language of the document is ambiguous:
In this case a construction proceeding may help clear up the ambiguities. You see, during this proceeding the court will attempt to “construct” the language in a way that adheres to the intent of the document, but removes the ambiguities. For example, if a will gives the same property to a different person in two separate sections.
If the language is clear but its content is erroneous:
Here, a reformation proceeding is the way to go. It will allow the court to correct the erroneous information, which usually occurs due to mistakes in spelling, and may be applied retroactively if appropriate. An example of where reformation is appropriate would be if the drafter spelled the devisee’s name as “Bob Smyth” instead of “Bob Smith.”