I have written in the past about the dangers of relying on internet forms to prepare estate planning documents, now I have an example of what can go wrong.
In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court decided on a case that involved a woman using an “E-Z Legal Form” to prepare her will. The Supreme Court Justices in the case of Aldrich v. Basile ignored the will and codicil that was prepared by Ann Aldrich and decided instead that Ms. Aldrich’s inheritance would pass under the rules of intestate succession. In other words, the justices’ decision deviated from Ms. Aldrich’s wishes and caused a completely different result. The inheritance passed to her nieces, under the rules of intestate succession, instead of passing to her brother, which was Ms. Aldrich’s intention. One justice calls the case “a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of . . . drafting a will without legal assistance.” [Emphasis added]
The justices decided in this fashion because the will didn’t have a residuary clause and because the codicil that she wrote was not properly witnessed. In my earlier post, I wrote that you should not rely on internet forms because you may not understand the effect of what you are signing. In the Aldrich case, the will would not have been disputed if Ms. Aldrich had understood what the effect of not having a residuary clause would be. An estate planning attorney could have cautioned her of the absence of the residuary clause and its consequences.
With the advice and counseling of an estate planning attorney, you will make sure that your wishes will be fulfilled as you state in your estate planning documents. So, don’t rely on forms. Seek the advice of competent counsel. Call me at (954) 532-9447 or fill out the contact form for a complimentary audit of your estate planning documents.
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