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Online Will vs. a 2005 Revocable Trust? Could that online Will be updated/revised?

San Francisco, CA |

If you want to protect the 2005 Revocable Trust and are concerned about the ethics of someone with access to the previous online will (unknown date) what steps would you take to protect the trust?

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Attorney answers 3


First, you need to verify that the appropriate assets, investment and bank accounts are transfered to the trust. You should consult with an experienced attorney to review the assets and identify which assets need to be transfered. As a general rule, if record title is in the name of the individual, then the asset or account should be transfered. If there is a beneficiary designation, you need to identify the best manner to complete that designation. Care must be taken for IRA accounts and for retirement or other tax deferred accounts. If not handled correctly, then the beneficiary may be required to take a lump sum distribution or even use a less favorable measuring life for the taxation of the benefits. The beneficiary may lose the right to qualify for a stretchout of the benefits to pay taxes on the benefits based on their age. Regarding the will itself, a new will should have been prepared when the revocable trust was established which provided that the estate was to be paid to the revocable trust. That type of will is commonly referred to as a pourover will and should include a declaration that all prior wills are revoked. This is a deceptiviely complicated situation and you should have these issues reviewed by a qualified estate planning atorney in your area. Without an attorney's review, you will not know if your plan works until after you are gone and it is too late to correct that then. If your question is whether another person could revise their will without your knowledge, then the answer is that any competent person can always revise their will even with a holographic will which is a will in which all of the material provisions are written by him or her in their own handwriting.


I would also add to the excellent assessment by Mr. Goralka, that you be on the lookout for any assertions that the Revocable Trust was revoked and whether the online will in question was executed with all the formalities for it to be legally effective. Online and DIY Wills are fraught with possibilities of failing to meet the necessary requirements.

Nothing stated in this answer, or on any pages linked to this answer, shall be construed as legal advice, nor shall anything in this answer by itself operate to create an attorney/client relationship.


I believe you have asked this question a number of times before. You are misunderstanding the relation between a Will and Trust and the effect of this type of estate plan.

If the assets are titled in the Trust, then the Will is completely irrelevant. It has NO effect on Trust assets whatsoever. If the assets are not titled in the Trust, then the Trust does not control them or their disposition. In that case, a "pour-over Will" could place the assets in the trust, but if I recall, yours was not a "pour-over Will." This suggested to us that your estate plan was not drawn up by an attorney but was a do-it-yourself plan. If that is the case, it is time to visit with an estate planning attorney so you can make sure that this is done properly for once and for all.

You are not going to be able to get a definitive answer on this site, as you have seen, because we do not have copies of your documents or know how your assets are titled. Continuing to post your situation multiple times will not change that. You need to check with a lawyer and get this straight. Because you have not mentioned Power of Attorney forms, you also need to ask the lawyer about setting these up.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

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