A will is a legal document that states a person’s last wishes regarding their personal property. Personal property may be bank accounts, land and housing, vehicles, stocks, and other assets. Does your mom have a will or has she consulted with an elder law professional? Many older adults don’t see the need or keep putting it off until it’s too late. When you don’t have a valid will in place, courts determine who gets your assets, and you might not agree with the court’s decision.
While laws vary, intestate rules apply. Usually, it goes that your spouse gets your money, followed by your children, surviving parents, siblings, surviving grandparents, and then cousins. If you don’t have living family members, the state gets your money. Here are five well-known situations that explain the value of having a will.
Though James Brown died in 2006, his estate battles continue. He’d written a will with a lawyer, but he also had an irrevocable trust for his business assets. The will revealed almost all of his assets would go to charity. His wife and youngest son and children from previous marriages were to get nothing. The legality of the will has been questioned and is now with the Supreme Court.
The bestselling author of the Millennium series (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) died without a valid will in place. He’d allegedly handwritten a will, but it was signed without a witness, so it was invalid. His long-time girlfriend received nothing after his death. His assets, including his book series, all went to his estranged father and brother.
Singer Bob Marley died in his 30s without a will, but he had a wife, mistresses, and 11 children at the time of his death. Due to Jamaican laws, Marley’s wife was due to only get 10% of his estate due to the lack of a will.
When Steve McNair was killed by a girlfriend in 2009, he died without a will. By law, his wife and children took possession of all of his assets, estimated to be over $19 million. As he’d supported his mother throughout his NFL career, she was surprised when his wife immediately evicted her and sued her to gain possession of personal property his mom possessed.
When billionaire Howard Hughes died in a plane crash in 1976, he died with no known heirs and an estimated $1.5 billion in assets. A handwritten will was produced, followed by several others, but all of them were declared fakes. Seven years later, the courts split his estate between 22 of his cousins.
Talk to your mom and save the rest of the family a lot of hassle and stress. Make sure your mom has an expert in elder law draw up a valid and binding will. You don’t want to be in a situation where you find your mom’s estate is frozen by an unexpected situation or person. Arrange a free consultation with an elder law attorney.