You are working hard every day not only to “pay the bills” and get by but also to pass along a legacy of virtue, values and assets. You want assurance that your loved ones will be protected once you pass on … but will they? Blunders and oversights in your estate plan can lead to all sorts of dismal outcomes. Last month, we explored three of these “horror stories.” This month, we’ll confront three more to learn lessons from others’ mistakes.
Horror Story #1: Epic Fight Over Newscaster’s Montana Property
Forbes gives the account of the CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt, who made an unofficial change to his will a few weeks prior to his death. He wrote a note to Patricia Elizabeth Shannon, his longtime mistress, promising to leave her property near a Montana fishing retreat they had enjoyed. After Kuralt died, however, his family and Shannon fought for six years in court over whether the note was a legitimate amendment to his 1994 will.
Estate Planning Lesson #1: Resist the impulse to cut corners when establishing or amending your will, living trust or other critical planning document. Work with a qualified lawyer to make changes.
Horror Story #2: The Butler Did It (“It” Being “Messed Up the Estate”)
Even celebrities make mistakes in estate planning. Tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993 with a $1.3 billion fortune, appointed her butler as the executor of a large charitable foundation. After he engaged in questionable spending habits, a probate judge removed him from his duties.
Estate Planning Lesson #2: Pick an executor with sterling character who will faithfully follow your wishes. A person who holds this office must be trustworthy.
Horror Story #3: Hugely Politicized Battle Over When to End Care
Many will remember the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who remained in a vegetative state months after receiving a brain injury. Her husband wanted to remove her feeding tube, because he felt she wouldn’t want prolonged artificial life support. Her parents strongly opposed the move. Since Schiavo didn’t have a health care directive expressing her wishes, her husband and parents waged a court battle that lasted for almost 10 years.
Estate Planning Lesson #3: Make a living will to record your end-of-life preferences for your doctor and family.
A competent attorney can provide valuable assistance when it comes to estate planning and enshrining your wishes and your legacy. Contact us today at 501-221-7776 for a free consultation.