In death as in life, chaos surrounds Anna Nicole Smith. For a week the media fixated on the probate hearing that was to determine her final resting place. Why? Because the bombshell blond, despite her fortune, had failed to have her last will and testament properly prepared. Sadly, it’s an all too common mistake.
Just recently, a distant family member of a client, whom I was representing on another matter, became terminally ill. Without talking to me about the situation and with no estate planning documents in place, the family did the best they could in attempting to draft a will following the direction of the distant relative. In trying to save time and money, they unfortunately created a flawed document. Later, the client consulted with me regarding the matter, and we attempted to have the will admitted to probate. The failure to have the will properly executed prevented its admission to probate. In this case, the estate assets then passed according to the
Preparing estate planning documents is actually a relatively small expenditure, especially when you consider the cost of a flawed will. For usually under a thousand dollars, an experienced attorney should be able to create a simple set of estate planning documents for a husband and wife. You should have a set of wills, durable powers of attorney, directives to physicians (also known as a living will), and a set of medical powers of attorney. If you’re single, you will want to designate someone to be the beneficiary of your estate, and to have your power of attorney.
An attorney who is knowledgeable in estate planning will be able to analyze your situation and give some thought into planning your documents with consideration to the roles of family members and close friends who might be appropriately named for a role in the estate. By taking the time now, you’ll save your loved ones considerable expense and a lot of headaches in the future.