The entire reason a person writes up a last will and testament is to make his or her wishes known and to ensure that the people he or she wants to receive an inheritance, will actually do so. In recent years, probating a will in Lee County is becoming more and more common, sometimes leading to disregarding the wishes of the deceased altogether.
This may be the case in a dispute regarding the $300 million estate of a woman who died two years ago at the age of 104. It seems that the woman had two wills that were written up just a month apart when she was 98 years old. The first will named 21 distant relatives, some of whom the woman had never even met, as the beneficiaries of the majority of her estate. The second one left out the relatives and instead named a goddaughter and caregiver as two of the beneficiaries and set up a foundation for her collection of dolls and art. It also gave an art gallery a Monet painting valued at $25 million.
These incongruent wills have led to much litigation regarding the question of who the rightful heirs to the woman’s fortune really are. The sad part is that it didn’t have to be this way. Had the woman taken steps like setting up a revocable trust or putting in a no-contest clause, the entire mess may have been avoided. The fact that the wills were drawn up when she was 98 has also led people involved in the case to argue that the woman was not competent.
If you want to avoid having your estate thrown into litigation after you pass, you may wish to speak with an attorney about specific estate planning steps you can take to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Source: The New York Times, “How to Avoid an Estate Battle After You Die,” Paul Sullivan, June 14, 2013