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Probate Horror Story #1: Estranged Parents

At The Brown Law Firm, LLC, we often have to help our clients through the probate process – whether or not those clients have created a will. Because the horror stories are so commonplace, we are starting a Probate Horror Story Series to bring to light some of the situations that can arise during probate. We are starting the series with estranged parents.

Probate is a court process to ensure that the estate or assets of a deceased person are properly distributed. If you have not created a will, the courts make the decisions on who receives your estate. This is the situation of this particular Probate Horror Story.

Fictional Situation: Joe

  • 55-year-old male
  • No spouse, no children
  • Successful finance career
  • Making $250,000/year + bonuses
  • Has life insurance, investments, savings
  • Owns his home and car
  • No will
  • Has been estranged from his parents for 25 years – no contact

If Joe were to pass away without a will, the laws of intestacy would apply and his entire estate would be distributed to his closest surviving family members: his estranged parents. The courts will not have any background information about why Joe and his parents were at odds. It will not be their responsibility to delve deep into the family dynamics to learn if there were situations such as physical or mental abuse, abandonment, differences of opinions, exploitation, religious differences, lifestyle choice disagreements, money disagreements or any other reason. All of Joe’s worldly possessions would be passed on to the two people he had not had contact with for over 25 years.

Would you want everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve to be given to someone you dislike or someone you don’t know anymore? That’s what could potentially happen if you are in a similar situation as Joe.

However, if Joe had crafted a will or trust, he could have specified exactly who he wanted to receive his estate: friends, distant relatives, a significant other, charities, etc. He also could specify in his will or trust that his estranged parents are not to receive any of his estate. (It is advisable to consult a Denver estate planning attorney to make sure this is worded and executed correctly.) His estranged parents would most likely have no strong legal action to sway the courts.

If you do not have a will, the Denver probate lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help you create the right documents to protect your estate from falling into the wrong hands. To learn more, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.

Watch for our blog next month for the next installment of our Probate Horror Story Series.