Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog


Another Madoff Mistake: An Out-of-Date Estate Plan

January 24, 2011

Looks like Bernie Madoff’s youngest son Mark didn’t do what we always recommend our estate planning clients do:  Review his estate plan whenever there’s a substantial change in financial or family circumstances. And what changes there were in the Madoff family circumstances these past few years!

We’ve just now learned that Mark, who took his own life late last year, had drafted a Will  in 2007 naming his father and his brother Andrew as co-Personal Representatives (or in New York speak, “executors”). Obviously, with the father in federal prison for the rest of his life, he can’t serve. That leaves Andrew in charge. Read more about Mark Madoff’s estate plan here.

When you should review your estate plan

Granted, few will feel much sympathy for the Madoff clan’s estate planning woes, but still, there are lessons to be learned.  And below, a list of just some of the circumstances that should trigger your own estate plan review:

  1. Anyone you have named as a fiduciary (Personal Representative, Agent under Durable Power of Attorney, Trustee, etc.) has passed away or is otherwise unwilling to serve or incapable of serving. For example, I have examined estate plans in which the person appointed the spouse as Personal Representative years ago, and the spouse has been in a nursing home with advanced dementia for years.
  2. The beneficiaries named in your plan are deceased.
  3. There have been births and adoptions in your family.
  4. Your children or grandchildren have achieved the age of 18.
  5. You or your children have gotten married, divorced, or remarried.
  6. There has been a substantial change in the size of your estate.
  7. There has been a substantial change in your health or your spouse’s health.
  8. You move to another state. Laws regarding estate planning documents, taxes, etc., vary among states.

Even if none of the above apply to you, we recommend that you have your estate plan reviewed every three years.  The passage of time has a way of changing things, and sometimes those changes can be nearly imperceptible to us. At The Karp Law Firm, we offer free three-year reviews to all our clients.