Attorneys and clients both recognize that estate planning can be a constantly changing process. The plans can be affected by family circumstances and legal changes. Increased wealth, marriages and uncertain tax laws have led clients to periodically reevaluate their estate plans, a move encouraged by legal experts. By paying constant attention to their estate documents, clients can prevent last-minute document errors that jeopardize the proper execution of their wishes.

Attorneys say they are faced with an ever-increasing number of people who want to make changes to estate plans. Revocable documents, such as wills and revocable trusts, are generally easy to modify.

There are four ways for clients to change their irrevocable legal documents: construction, reformation, amendment and decanting. Construction court actions are generally taken to remedy ambiguities in a document or to provide for a contingency not yet considered. This may occur if two different heirs are listed in different sections of a will as the recipient of the same benefit.

Reformation proceedings are designed to change language that is erroneous. These actions are generally taken to remedy such problems as misspellings, although sometimes more severe errors are addressed. These problems may arise when an attorney is drafting the document. Reformations can retroactively change documents.

Amendments are additions to the document. These relatively straightforward proceedings allow for administrative changes that will not affect the distribution of trust assets. For example, if the trust needed to be moved to a state with more favorable estate laws, an amendment could be drafted to allow this action.

It’s important for Florida retirees worried about changes needing to be made to an estate plan to begin addressing these concerns sooner rather than later.

Luis E. Barreto