Today I had the unusual experience of dealing with instructions about as clear as mud on both ends of the life spectrum. Let me explain; the first misunderstanding involves baby equipment, the second, end of life planning.
Two friends of mine have passed baby gear between the two of them for years. Each recently had the last child either will ever have; they’ve decided their families are complete. The friend who gave birth last (let’s call her #2) was given several items, two of which she understood were to be returned upon completion of use. When #2 finished using the items, she donated all but the two to be returned. The problem was that the woman who passed the items on to #2 wanted everything returned. It was certainly reasonable for #2 to donate the items because only the return of two of the items was aranged Had plans been discussed, intentions and desires made clear, the ensuing argument, resentment, and strain on the friendship cold have been avoided. By the time I got the phonecall this afternoon, a twenty year-old friendship was all but over.
The second situation involves a handwritten note purporting to amend an elderly gentleman’s trust. The gentleman recently passed away. The trust had a single beneficiary, but the note, which could be referred to as a holographic codicil, listed several bequests totaling around one million dollars. The issue is that the single trust beneficiary insists that the handwritten list was not a final decision, evidenced by the fact that it was not included as a formal trust amendment. The beneficiaries of the handwritten note insist that the note evidences the gentleman’s true desire. What has the potential to turn in to much more than a nasty disagreement is just beginning.
The similarity in the situations is that clear instructions could have saved quite a bit of strife in each case. When you have desires with respect to specific assets, be clear in what you’d like to see happen. Our free consultations offer opportunity to discuss any desired changes to your estate plan.
Contributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea Claus.
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