Where, oh where, is my will? A cautionary tale

As a family member gets older or sick, many times, another family member will ask them about their estate planning, “Do you have a will?” and they will hear a familiar answer, “I had it done years ago.” The concerned family member feels better, “I’m glad they got their estate planning done, now I don’t have to worry about that.”
Unfortunately, many times, after the older or sicker family member can no longer competently explain their plans, someone will look for the supposed estate planning documents. Maybe a doctor is asking for a health care power of attorney, or there is an end of life situation requiring a living will or declaration of a desire for a natural death, or the person passes and assets need to be probated.

Many people don’t understand there is a difference between having the original will and merely presenting a copy of the will to probate. If you only have a copy, you have to file a formal petition and it will be more closely scrutinized and could be subject to dispute. There is an even bigger issue if you can’t find a will or if they never had one executed. In this case, the assets may not pass the way the person wished, or the way the family thought they should.

April 23, 2018 / Lisa Hostetler