One of the most important papers you will ever sign is your Will. You will need to protect it and to make sure that this statement of your best intentions toward those you care the most about will do the job that it was designed to do. Periodically (every 5 to 7 years) you should review it to determine if it makes sense in light of changing family and financial circumstances. When you do, keep these questions in mind:
1. Where is Your Will Kept?
Charles drafted his Will, leaving $50,000 to his daughter and a small farm to his son. At the time, it seemed to be an equitable decision. Years later he went to look for his Will but couldn’t find it, so he had an attorney draft a new one. In his new Will, he left his daughter one quarter the value of his entire estate in cash and the son was still to have the farm.
Then the first Will was found. Charles considered – correctly so – that the first Will was still in force, but he decided to keep the second Will “just in case.”
When Charles died, the court battle was begun between the son and daughter as to which Will should be in effect. By this time the value of the daughter’s inheritance from the second Will was worth considerably more than $50,000. The protracted litigation included substantial legal fees, appeals to the State Supreme Court, much delay and lasting estrangement between sister and brother.
All of this could have been avoided if clear language in the second Will would have declared all previous Wills null and void and if Charles had entrusted this very important document to a safe place and into reliable hands, perhaps his executor’s and/or his attorney’s. A good family sit-down to openly discuss the disposition of his earthly possessions would have helped to preserve family harmony.
This is the first of 6 questions which you can read more about in the August 2013 Newsletter