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DIY = Disaster Is Yours

A Minnesota woman signed a will in 2006 naming her grandson and a former employee as equal beneficiaries of her estate.   She tried to revoke the will in 2008 and leave her entire estate to her grandson by writing and initialing several changes on a photocopy of the will.  In 2010, she downloaded a DIY will from a website and hand wrote her intent to leave her entire estate to her grandson, but she did not have it properly witnessed.  She died in 2013 and all 3 wills were presented for probate.  The local probate court held that the 2006 will was still in effect because the 2008 notes on a photocopy did not validly revoke the prior will and that the 2010 downloaded form was not validly executed.

Several quick points:

1.  In Ohio, a will can be revoked with a statement of revocation or physical destruction (i.e. shredding or tearing) of the prior will.

2.  I generally retain the original wills of my clients to prevent them from trying to alter their wills by writing on them.

3.  I will once again quote the mechanic from the ’70’s Fram oil filter commercial (because I am from Greenville, Ohio and we had  a Fram oil filter plant in my long ago youth):  “You can pay me now or pay me later.”  I would have billed her $600 to implement her wishes. Instead, her estate spent thousands and her wishes were not followed because she did not follow the simple formalities for signing a will.  The now long ago former employee is forever grateful for her short sighted thriftiness.

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The Grand Disillusion

The author of this article in the New York Times discusses how little her deceased mother’s personal belongings were worth.  She was fortunate in that some of the items – a silver German tea service, a French painting, and  a friend’s Tiffany lamp – are more common in New York than in other places.

 Among the salient points:

 1.  In a best case scenario, contents might be worth 1/10 the value of the house.

2.  Non-Baccarat crystal goblets are not worth packing up.

3.  English and Early American antiques are not as valued as they once were.

4.  Non-Steinway pianos are not very marketable.

 My quick points:

 1.  I always advise my clients to not argue with siblings over personal property – the sibling relationship is far more valuable than any particular item.

2.  Tastes in furnishings and household items change which leads to declining values in most items.

3.  In addition to one’s personal belongings being worth less than expected, one’s children are probably not as smart as one believes either.

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All Posts By Jay Brinker

I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.