When is there a Need for Will Construction, Interpretation, and Reformation?

Divorce and legal separation do not take away the obligation of spouses to continue providing for the financial needs of their children, as well as for the spouse in need of support or alimony, that is, if the court sees the need for it. This, obligation requires the non-custodial parent, especially, to make timely child support payments to make sure that his or her children’s financial needs are always provided.

According to the website of Marshall & Taylor, PLLC, state laws usually require child support until the child turns 18; however, if there are special or extra needs that the child requires, like if the child were sick of wants to pursue a college education, then the court may order the continued payment of child support.

Parent’s obligation to their children, though, still goes beyond child support payments, so that even if they will have a new family (for divorced couples only since those who simply choose to continue living separately, without divorcing their spouse, cannot remarry and have a new family), they may still include their children, from a former marriage, in their will if they have assets and properties to leave behind (this is what, at least, a just and prudent parent would do). As a general rule, though, children do not have absolute right to claim inheritance if the deceased parent made a valid will. If there was no will made, then children, whether minor or adult, legitimate or illegitimate, or from former or present living spouse, may be entitled to claim a share on the property of the deceased parent (on what is left from the assets and properties after the deceased parent’s debts have all been paid and the surviving spouse has received his or her share).

One legal issue concerning wills or trust is will construction or trust reformation. A will construction is a formal process wherein the real intent of a testator (the person who made the will) is ascertained or determined, while a trust reformation is the process or rewriting a trust document. Both, however, may only happen if they appear vague, that is if their meaning remain genuinely unclear even after the general rules of interpretation have been applied.

Some examples of vagueness in the real intent of a testator in a will or trust include:

  • A testator intends to leave behind for his or her sibling a particular property but fails to specify who exactly among his or her siblings will receive it
  • All the beneficiaries mentioned in the will or trust have died ahead of the testator
  • The trustee or executor chosen by the testator has died and no successor was named
  • No trustee was named by the testator

Wills and trusts are important due to the legal safeguards that these provide in case the testator becomes incapacitated or dies. Besides naming heirs and the properties and assets that will be left behind, a testator can also make instructions on his or her preferred medical care, as well as on how he or she wishes to have his or her property holdings and other belongings distributed. According to the website of Peck Ritchey, wills and trusts need to make use of exact, unambiguous language in order to avoid disputes among beneficiaries.

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