Perils of Not Planning

Perils of Not Planning

Attorneys at Hyatt McIntire and Associates* specialize in estate planning, trust and probate law. We are dedicated to personalized, proactive, effective and resourceful planning that protects clients and their assets during their lifetime and efficiently distributes assets to beneficiaries at death.

Estate planning is deceptively complex; it is tempting to “do it yourself”. After all, almost everyone knows about a power of attorney and a will. Unfortunately, there are many ways for a plan to go terribly wrong. In some situations, no plan at all is effective. Other times, no plan, or incomplete and faulty planning brings needless financial and emotional hardship to loved ones.

Do you know the factors in your life that make estate planning, or lack of planning, vulnerable to disaster?

Below is a story of heartbreak, financial difficulty or family disruption that could have been avoided with effective planning. The story is real; with changes to protect confidentiality. It’s one of many stories highlighting ways a good plan can go wrong, the perils of not planning at all, the danger in do-it-yourself, and Buyer Beware if you don’t use an estate planning attorney.

The Risks of Intestacy (that is, dying without a will)

Husband and Wife (“Harry” and “Wilma”) had been married for over 30 years. Harry died unexpectedly, in middle of real estate sale. The real estate broker, the buyer, and Wilma were surprised to find out Harry was the only listed owner on the Deed. The real estate agent called our office to help. We were able to scramble, avoid a probate, and get the property in Wilma’s name. In this case, it worked because Harry and Wilma had acquired the property during their marriage and she could swear until penalty of perjury, that the property was community property.

Wilma vowed to develop her own estate plan so that her three children would not have any hassles at her death. She met with me on several occasions and we talked about it a lot. She knew how she wanted her estate divided: one child needed to inherit her home, even though this meant the others would not have an equal share. The other two didn’t “need” the home and were not in a position to take care of Wilma’s many animals on the property. She worried that the distribution would be unequal because there were insufficient other assets to balance out the gift of the home.

The primary worry that kept her from making the plan was how one child would react. We discussed her options and she accepted that it was her decision to make, but she just didn’t want to confront the unresolved issue with a child. She went into the hospital for a little bout of something and never came home. One daughter continued to pay property taxes, keep the home up and care for the animals until her money ran out.

Since Wilma had never signed her estate plan, she was intestate; the Probate Code determines what happens to a person’s assets when they don’t leave a will. In this case, all three children shared equally in the estate, which meant the house was sold. The relationship among the siblings rapidly deteriorated and will not likely be repaired. It was not what Wilma wanted and her family is paying the price; it is really heartbreaking.

Do you understand your estate plan? Do you know the factors in your life that make estate planning, or lack of planning, vulnerable to disaster?

Give the attorneys at Hyatt McIntire & Associates* a call; we are problem solvers and believe the best solution is to be proactive. We can help. 530.674.9761
950 Tharp Road, Suite 701 Yuba City, CA 95993
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*Formerly known as the Law Office of Paulla Hyatt-McIntire

Hyatt McIntire & Associates