How to Amend Estate Plan After Death

Believe it or not, an estate plan can be amended after death. Huh?

This is not about conjuring someone up from the dead. It’s about a Disclaimer.

If you are a beneficiary of someone’s estate, you can say “Thanks, but no thanks,” and your inheritance can skip you and go to your children. This is called a disclaimer. A disclaimer must be in writing signed and notarized by you within nine months of the date of death.

Example: Your father died. His living trust leaves you half of his estate. For various reasons, which could include estate tax reasons, you would rather your inheritance go directly to your children. You could make this happen by signing a written disclaimer. The disclaimer, which must have the correct provisions from the probate code, will operate to distribute your inheritance as if you had died before your father. In most cases (depending on how your father’s living trust or will was written), this would get your inheritance to your children.

Many lawyers and clients are not aware of the disclaimer strategy. We call it post-death estate planning. A disclaimer can be very useful if 1) you already have a taxable estate and don’t need the inherited assets, 2) you were going to leave the inherited assets to your children anyway, and 3) you want to avoid the government taking an estate tax bite on the inherited assets when you pass away.