Probate Horror Stories

Four Cautionary Tales You Can Avoid

Happy Halloween! This month will be filled with haunted houses, ghoulish costumes, and terrifying tales. After years of practicing probate law and helping people with their estate planning, there are so many real-life horror stories that we have encountered. Last month I interviewed our Certified Estate Planning Attorney, Julie D. Eisenhower, on the importance of good estate planning. These stories will further reinforce what she shared and help you decide what to do to protect your loved ones.

The Tale of No Will Frank Intestate 

Frank lived alone, never married, and never had kids. With the help of his two nephews, he built a successful family business. Frank didn’t think much of not having children because his two nephews treated him with all the love and respect that he imagined came from being a dad. Unfortunately, of his 21 nieces and nephews, only two were a part of his life. When he passed away, he was survived by all of his nieces and nephews (most whom he hadn’t seen in over 20 years). The two nephews were the only family members at his funeral. Regardless, Frank had no will and his estate was ultimately divided amongst 21 heirs. In addition, it was very expensive and time consuming to track down many of the heirs. A simple will could have allowed Frank to decide his beneficiaries and prevent the extra costs to his estate. 

The Handwritten Horror 

Molly thought writing her wishes down and signing it would be enough to ensure her estate went to the beneficiaries listed. After her death, Molly’s beneficiaries found seven different handwritten documents. When I was retained by one of the two beneficiaries, there were already 14 heirs and two attorneys involved. The value of this estate made 12 of these estranged family members appear and the other beneficiary was ready to throw in the towel and agree to dividing Molly’s assets with the 12 estranged members. Luckily, after reviewing the seven documents and scouring through case law, we helped Molly rest peacefully by making sure her estate went solely to her two beneficiaries. A simple will would have saved valuable time, money and resources for the beneficiaries. 

The Haunted House with the Surviving Spouse

Jack and Nancy seemed so in love. A blended family that joined Jack’s three children with Nancy’s two children. Nancy owned a haunted house that had been passed down from her great grandfather and she also owned her own business and accumulated some wealth. This is what started the nightmare of the mirror image will. The couple made wills that left everything to each other and then equally to the five children. Nancy passed away suddenly and very soon after Jack executed a new will naming his three children only. Nancy’s children were asked to leave their mom’s house and were left with nothing. A trust or complex will could have protected Nancy’s children. 

Let these creepy tales help you avoid leaving your loved ones in a probate horror story with a thorough estate plan. 

TriAmicus Law, PLLC

(865) 217-1154 


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