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Testator’s reliance on legal form proves to be costly

One woman used what was called an “E-Z Legal Form” when creating her will in 2004.  However, since the form did not contain a residuary clause, a pair of nieces who were not mentioned in the will inherited property that the testator failed to list in the document.  The nieces were the daughters of a brother of the testator who had previously died.

One concurring justice of the Florida Supreme Court who heard arguments on this matter as it was contested in court wrote: “While I appreciate that there are many individuals in this state who might have difficulty affording a lawyer, this case does remind me of the old adage ‘penny-wise and pound foolish’.”

This justice wanted to remind every one of the dangers of preparing such documents by using legal forms without first receiving legal assistance. Such a course of action can defeat the intent of the testator and ultimately result in payment of even more in attorney’s fees in an attempt to remedy mistakes that were made.

Wills need to be drafted with specificity and also follow the estate and probate laws for where the testator resides. While courts will do what they can to remedy circumstances where a will contest arises, sometimes the document can be unclear as to what the testator actually intended. This may result in property being distributed in a manner that the testator of the will never intended.

Please speak to an estate planning lawyer for assistance rather than rely on information found on the internet. That information may prove to be inadequate or incorrect.

Source: ABA Journal, “Estate dispute caused by ‘E-Z Legal Form’ is a ‘cautionary tale,’ says justice,” Debra Cassens Weiss, April 3, 2014

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