For a number of reasons (capital gains tax not the least among them) many people choose to leave property to their heirs by will rather than lifetime gift.
But wills are static, whereas people's wishes for their heirs change over time. Naturally, wills can be amended, which allows you to account for changes. But an amendment (or "codicil") to a will is time consuming and often expensive.
Many people, furthermore, find that would-be heirs receive unequal treatment during their lives as time passes. Take, for example, a couple with three children, Anna, Ben, and Christie. The couple write wills when the children are young, and thirty years go by. As the children aged, Anna and Ben paid their way through college and now support their own families.
Christie, on the other hand, would have dropped out of junior college but for her parents' money. Narrowly passing during her first two years, she later transferred to a state school to study hotel management, where she required even further help with tuition and expenses. Still later, Christie had two children, then divorced. Though she received custody of the children, Christie was not self-sufficient financially, and her parents helped raise their grandchildren.
The couple's original will had provided that the estate should pass in equal shares to Anna, Ben, and Christie. Thirty years after its drafting, this doesn't seem fair, since Christie had received a great deal of the parents' wealth during their lives.
So should the parents have re-drafted their will after every gift to Christie? Every five years? After 30 years? Regardless of when they're done, amendments to a will have the same effect: they freeze one's wishes in time, adapted only to the then-present set of circumstances.
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Tanner Pittman, LLC is a West Georgia law firm that specializes in estate services, civil litigation, and legal transactions.
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