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Despite the concerns about strained relations with China, increased COVID infections, social protests, weaker earnings, high U.S. unemployment and the November election, the S&P 500 Index is up 1% for the year while the Nasdaq Index is up 19.7%. The increasing spread of the virus is suppressing a healthy economic recovery as consumers and businesses remain conservative in their spending.Learn More
I normally do not make a practice of working from home, but with safe distancing and travel limitations sparked by the pandemic, staying home was something many were following.
After setting up my home office and starting some projects, I reached for my yellow highlighter, then laughed because I didn’t have one at home, then resorted to using Post-it Notes.
I realized just how often I used my yellow highlighter at work and decided to pick one up the next time I went to the office. I find it handy to use a highlighter, which has become part of my work process. I’m sure many of you feel similarly.
With that being said, I do want to issue a warning about highlighters, be they yellow, pink, or blue: Never use them on your original estate-planning documents. The same goes for using Post-it Notes or worse yet, crossing out text and handwriting changes in the margins. These attempts at changes could possibly create unforeseen issues.
Florida law is quite clear on how to make changes to estate-planning documents such as your will or trust. For example, in order for a codicil to a will or an amendment to a trust to be considered valid, it must be signed by you (the testator/grantor) and witnessed by two people in the presence of all parties (the testator/grantor and the witnesses).
This is why we encourage our clients to talk out the changes with us and seek your estate planning attorney’s help to finalize them. In this case, you could use your highlighter or marker to create a “working document” that you can take to your attorney and discuss, then create a new, unblemished document and shred the old one with your notes.
Why? Here is an example of what could happen: If these handwritten changes were discovered and never formally executed, the parties in your trust document could hire attorneys to determine whether these changes impact the original document, therefore costing your estate financially.
Play it safe. If you are interested in making changes, contact your trust officer for a review and set up an appointment to meet with your attorney and obtain the necessary codicil or amendment. Your successor trustee will thank you and your new wishes will happen as you intended.
These suggestions are something for you to consider, and if you have a yellow highlighter, remember it’s great for notes, but not for wills and trusts.
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