I previously posted on DIY Estate Planning. Here is a real life example from earlier in 2014.
Case name: Aldrich v. Basile
Ms. Aldrich twice tried to create a do-it-yourself will, and failed both times. In the first attempt, she used a pre-printed form to fill in details on disposition of her assets, but she failed to indicate who would inherit the residue of her estate, Then, after her primary beneficiary died, she handwrote a codicil (basically an amendment to a will) to confirm her intent that her assets were to go to her brother. However, she failed to comply with the formalities needed to make the codicil valid under state law.
After Ms. Aldrich’s death, her brother Mr. Aldrich, was appointed as personal representative of her estate and he sought to have a court determine who would inherit the property.
Laurie Basile and Leanne Krajewski, Ms. Aldrich's nieces from a predeceased brother, asserted an interest in the probate action. Mr. Aldrich initiated an adversary proceeding in the probate case and argued that the most reasonable and appropriate construction of the will was that Ms. Aldrich intended for her entire estate, including what she had acquired from her sister, to pass to him.
Her nieces, however, argued there wasn’t a valid will and therefore by law they should receive the residue of the estate. The dispute went all the way to the State Supreme Court, where the court found for the nieces. Even though the facts suggest Ms. Aldrich intended for her brother to be her beneficiary, the court determined she failure to state this intent in a compliant legal document.
The key here is a compliant legal document, i.e. one that complies with and is valid under the law.
Daniel H. Alexander, Attorney
www.dalexander.com / (800) 530-4529