Tax Changes and Your Will

Whenever relevant tax laws change, it is important to update your will to reflect those changes, instead of relying on a court to make the changes for you.

Wills are not necessarily set in stone after someone passes away.  Under some circumstances, probate courts can change a deceased person's will.  This is called "reforming the will".

The use of the word "reform" gives a clue as to the purpose and limited scope of the changes a court can make.  If the provisions of the will as written make it impossible to fulfill the clear intent of the deceased, then the court can change those provisions to fulfill the intent.

Reformation is rarely used because it is difficult to divine the intent of someone who has died.

Some states do allow it for tax purposes, however, as Wealth Management discussed in "Reforming a Will for Tax Savings".

The idea is this: if the intent is clear that the deceased wished to minimize the tax burden on the estate and the tax laws have changed since the will was drafted, then a will can be reformed to fulfill that intent.

People should not rely on the possibility that a court will use reformation for this purpose, however.

Instead, people should go back to their estate planning attorneys and update their wills to reflect the new laws when tax laws change.  This ensures that their will do fulfill their intent, which is better than relying on a court to decide whether the wills do or do not.

Changes to federal tax laws are expected soon.   People should plan to update their wills shortly if these changes to the tax laws might have an impact on their estates.

Reference: Wealth Management (May 19, 2017) "Reforming a Will for Tax Savings."

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