Friday, February 8, 2013

Issues With the Word Issue in a Will

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The question "what does issue mean in a will" is the number one query that brings people to my blog.  A fact I know thanks to analytics.  As you can see from earlier posts, within the context of a will or other estate planning documents, "issue" refers to your lineal descendants.  That means your children, grandchildren, etc.

Lawyers may use the word issue to capture any future born offspring, but one needs to use the word with caution. Consider this example:

  • A single women who has 3 children and 1 grandchild writes a will;
  • If she wrote "I leave my estate in equal shares to my children" then each child would inherit 1/3 of the estate at her death (assuming the children are all still alive); 
  •  If she wrote "I leave my estate in equal shares to my issue" then the estate would be split in 1/4, with a forth going to each child and a fourth going to her grandchild.  There is a difference depending on which word is used.
As an attorney I use the word issue more in the context of developing contingency plans.  It comes in handy when planning for grandchildren that have yet to be born.  

And when planning for issue, one should consider if they have issue with their issue inheriting outright.  Factors to consider are:
  • age -- are the heirs minors?
  • impulsive behavior -- even if issue are adults, will they blow an inheritance in a weekend?
  • special needs -- does one of your lineal descendants have a special need, such as down syndrome, for which they receive government health care?  If so, a direct inheritance may be problematic
Those are three issues that often arises when I speak with clients about their issue.  And they are worth a few moments of thought.  Creating a will or trust boils down to control, and through this process you can take control of what, when and how issue inherit.

Thanks for reading, and as always, please remember a blog is designed for educational purposes.  A blog post is not legal advice.  Please consult with an attorney in your state for advice 

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