Ask the Expert: Not in the will? Too bad

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You cannot revise a decedent's will, even if

You cannot revise a decedent's will, even if you think that's what she would have wanted. Photo Credit: iStock

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Lynn Brenner Lynn Brenner

Brenner answers questions about all aspects of family finance.

We have a serious family problem arising from my daughter's untimely death. She put two of her four nephews -- my four grandsons -- in her will, the 13-year-old and the 9-year-old. But she was working and going for medical treatments, and she never added the 7-year-old and 5-year-old. Our question is, how can we add them to this will? My son-in-law is acting very immature about this problem.

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There is no way to add beneficiaries to your late daughter's will.

It sounds as if she originally wrote it before her younger nephews were born and didn't later revise it to include them. It also sounds as if your son-in-law -- presumably the father of the two children who are named in the will -- is unwilling to share their inheritance with the children who weren't named. But this decision isn't up to you or your son-in-law. When heirs are minor children, their interests are represented by a court-appointed attorney called a "guardian ad litem," says Jeffrey A. Zankel, a Melville estate lawyer, "and no guardian would give up part of the kids' inheritance to someone who isn't named in the will."

One lesson here for other readers is to make sure their wills include language covering unborn children, says Eric Kramer, a Uniondale estate lawyer. "For example, you can leave a bequest 'to all the children of my sister who are living at the time of my death.' " A will won't cover children who are born after your death, says Zankel, but you can do that with a trust. For example, it's possible to leave money in a 20-year trust for the benefit of your sister's issue.

The bottom line You cannot revise a decedent's will, even if you think that's what she would have wanted.

Websites with more information and

TO ASK THE EXPERT: Send questions to Ask the Expert / Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.

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