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THAT SIMPLE WILL COULD COST YOU

Drafting a will is undoubtedly a melancholy and daunting process. Sure, thinking about what your family will have to do on your behalf when you're gone is not something you would like to spend your Friday evening dwelling on.  Unfortunately, death is inevitable and you want to make sure your family is protected and taken care of. The last thing you want is a fight over who gets your antique grandfather clock or the family home. With that being said, a will is not something you should leave in the hands of a computer and pre-printed form. That $75 online will could end up costing you... a lot. 

Ann Aldrich's family learned just that. Ms. Aldrich wrote her will on an "E-Z Legal Form," (Cringe!!!) in which she left her entire estate to her sister. Should Ms. Aldrich's sister pass away before her, she left her estate to her brother. As most unconvincingly written mystery novels, you know what happens next: Ms. Aldrich's sister passed away first. However, in a little twist, Ms. Aldrich inherited all of her sister's estate.  Ms. Aldrich ultimately passed away and never revised her will to reflect the property she inherited from her sister. (Cringe!!!)  Now, the plot thickens. After Ms. Aldrich's death, her nieces claimed an interest in the property she inherited from her sister; however, the brother argued that it was Ms. Aldrich's intention for her entire estate to pass to him. 

Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court disagreed with the brother's argument. See: Aldrich v. Basile, 136 So. 3d 530 (Fla. 2014). The Court determined that, despite Ms. Aldrich's intent to leave her entire estate to her brother, she failed to properly include the property she inherited from her sister in her will. In the end, the property Ms. Aldrich inherited from her sister was split between her brother and two nieces - and likely in direct contention with Ms. Aldrich's wishes. 

Had Ms. Aldrich included a residuary clause within her will, this could have been avoided. A residuary clause is a catch-all. For example, Ms. Aldrich could have said "I leave all the property I own at my death to my brother."  A phrase such as this was not included in Ms. Aldrich's pre-printed will. An estate planning lawyer could have prevented this. Because of all the attorneys' fees and multiple appeals, that pre-printed form ended up costing Ms. Aldrich's estate more than a mere $75 in the long run. If you're planning for your family's future, be sure to include an estate planning lawyer. Not only could it save you from a costly mistake, it can hopefully allow for a smooth transition of your estate. 

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Tannenbaum Scro, P.L.
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