Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Signing estate planning documents

sign here
Image Credit: Robin Hutton cc

We regularly review signed estate planning documentation that has been returned to us for secure storage on a daily basis.

As part of a recent quality control audit, we tracked the most regularly occurring reasons for documents being rejected for a failure to comply with the strict legal requirements in this area.

Set out below is a summary of the most common issues we identified, and it is a timely reminder for any adviser facilitating the estate planning process:
  1. attorneys signing the attorney documents before the principal has signed – an attorney can not accept their appointment before the principal has appointed them; 
  2. leaving documents undated - unlike many other formal documents (for example, tax returns) where clients are specifically told not to date the document, all estate planning documentation must be dated on the day that it is signed; 
  3. failing to sign (and date) in each and every place required; 
  4. having witnesses who are relatives, beneficiaries or appointed in roles of authority (such as executor or attorney), all of whom are largely prohibited from being a witness; 
  5. having unqualified witnesses witness attorney documents when specific qualifications are required; and 
  6. attaching anything to an original document, including by way of paper clip, bulldog clip or post-it note. 
If any of the above issues arise, it virtually guarantees that the relevant document must be reproduced and resigned in order to avoid substantial and unnecessary difficulties when the document ultimately needs to be relied upon.

Until next week.