Some types of mistakes are easily remedied, and some are difficult, if not impossible, to fix. Estate planning mistakes fall into the latter category of errors, and, because of the nature of estate planning, they are truly a unique type of mistake. After all, the person who makes an estate planning mistake may never know about it because most estate planning mistakes are not discovered until after the person who made a mistake dies.
Unfortunately, the fact that most estate planning mistakes are never known to the individuals who make them does not mean that the errors are harmless. Estate planning mistakes have consequences, and the people who are affected by those consequences are the heirs of the decedent. Fortunately, most estate planning mistakes can be avoided by working with an estate planning attorney to draft your estate plan.
One of the most frequent causes of estate planning mistakes is DIY (do-it-yourself) estate planning. DIY estate planning products promise ease, convenience, and low prices. Unfortunately, mistakes caused by DIY estate planning can burden DIY estate planners’ heirs with enormous costs. A recent Supreme Court case in Florida reveals how a DIY estate plan failed, costing the decedent’s family significant amounts of time and money.
A Florida woman named Mrs. Aldrich used a preprinted form to create a will. Her will listed the assets she owned at the time she made the will and specified that each of her assets would pass to her sister. The will also stipulated that if Mrs. Aldrich’s sister did not survive her, then the items listed in her will was to pass to her brother.
The will Mrs. Aldrich made did not contain a residuary clause or any other type of provision that would have covered the disposition of any assets Mrs. Aldrich owned at the time of her death that were not mentioned in the will. That omission from the preprinted DIY estate planning form led to the following dilemma: Mrs. Aldrich’s sister passed away before she did and bequeathed money and real estate to her. Mrs. Aldrich placed the inheritance money in a new bank account and took title to the real estate.
When Mrs. Aldrich died, the assets listed in her will passed to her brother. However, she also owned assets that were not listed in the will. Mrs. Aldrich’s brother believed that he would inherit the remainder of her estate, but it was not that simple. Instead, he had to litigate with two of her nieces after they claimed they should inherit at least some of it. The litigation was costly and time-consuming. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the items not explicitly included in the will were excluded from it because there was no residuary clause. Mrs. Aldrich’s brother and two nieces were each awarded a portion of the remainder of her estate, which included the real estate and the bank account, and each had to pay a significant amount of attorneys’ fees.
The Aldrich case is just one example of how DIY estate plans can fail. There are many other estate planning mistakes that DIY estate planners have made. The cost of each estate planning mistake varies, but it is always the heirs who bear the cost. Invest your time and money in working with an estate planning attorney to create an estate plan that will accomplish your estate planning goals. Call Wichita attorney, J. Joseph Weber today, at 316-265-7802, or contact us on the internet to schedule a consultation.