So, we are continuing with our ‘April Fools’ series. Last week, I told you not to be fooled by your close family relationships, because the best way to ensure your wishes are protected, is to write them down. You can’t just talk about it…be about it! This week, we’re going to talk about circumstances in which you may wish to revise your estate plan, even if you think they meet all of your needs, or otherwise clearly spell out your wishes.
So, if you’ve been reading my blogs or following me on Social Media for any length of time, you probably know that I loooooove explaining concepts using random stories.
Well… it’s one of those weeks. I want to share the story of my imaginary friend Paul. Paul grew up in a small tightknit family. In fact, Paul was raised with his little sister Paula by his mother Paulette. Paul’s dad was out of the picture, so it was just the three of them, for as long as he could remember. Paul, Paula, and Paulette were very, very close. They were three peas in a pod. Unfortunately, Paulette passed away tragically when Paul was 19 years old. Paula was only 15, so Paul had to grow-up pretty fast. Paul and Paula remained as close as two peas in a pod. Paul loved his baby sister, and vowed to always take care of her, no matter what. Paul was a proactive planner, so he decided to have an estate plan done. In his Will, Paul left all of his assets to Paula. He didn’t have much, but he wanted to make sure Paula would always be well cared for.
Fast forward a few years…Paul meets Martha. Paul and Martha fell in love and decided to get married. Because Paula was so important to Paul, he sat Martha down, and told her that if something should happen to him, he wanted all of his things to go to Paula. He didn’t bother changing his Will. He and Martha had a conversation, and his Will clearly states he wanted all of his things to go to Paula. Well…unfortunately Paul passed away not long after he and Martha married. Surprisingly enough, after Paul died, Martha completely forgot the conversation she and Paul had about wanting all of his things to go to Paula… Or did she? Well…it doesn’t matter if she remembered on didn’t. If she chooses, Martha can petition the Court to be considered an Omitted spouse. South Carolina Code §62-2-301 states in relevant part that if a testator fails to provide by Will for his surviving spouse who married the testator after the execution of the Will, the Omitted spouse shall receive the same share of the estate he/she would have received if the decedent left no will. This means the Omitted spouse will receive a minimum of fifty percent (50%) of the estate if the decedent had children or up to one hundred percent (100%) if the decedent had no children.
So, in this scenario, even if Paul wanted all of his assets to go to Paula, Martha is technically entitled to a minimum of 50% of that estate. If they didn’t have children, Paula could be completely SOL. The moral of the story, don’t make this foolish estate planning mistake! If you have a life changing event, be sure to revise your documents to ensure the people you love will remain protected. Otherwise, your plans may be completely derailed.