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Probate Horror Story #11: Unworthy Beneficiaries

Welcome to the 11th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month our topic covered what could happen if you unintentionally left a child out of your will. This month we are focusing on what could happen if you use certain wording in your will that leaves part of your estate to unworthy beneficiaries.

Fictional Situation: Clara

  • 77-year-old widowed grandmother
  • 3 adult children
  • 7 grandchildren (not in contact with 2 of them)
  • Created a will, but had not updated it in 15 years
  • Wording in her will included per stirpes for beneficiaries

Clara is a doting mother and grandmother – to most of her grandchildren. Unfortunately, over the past 5 years, 2 of her grandchildren chose a path in life that led them to crime and drug use. As a result, Clara has severed all ties with those 2 individuals.

When her husband passed away 15 years ago, Clara took time to update her will. When designating her beneficiaries, her lawyer explained how the use of the term per stirpes could be used to pass inheritance down to the survivors of beneficiaries who pass away before Clara. In Latin, this term means “by roots” and it is used so inheritance can seamlessly trickle down the family line.

At that time, Clara decided to designate that each of her adult children (Brad, Devon and Penny) would receive equal shares of her estate. If any of her children passed away before Clara, that child’s inheritance would be divided equally among their surviving children per stirpes.

When Clara’s son, Devon, passed away unexpectedly, his portion of his inheritance was passed down equally to his 4 children: 2 of which were the grandchildren that Clara felt were unworthy of receiving her estate. In dealing with the grief of losing her son, Clara neglected to update her will. Had she done so, she would have disinherited those 2 grandchildren from her will.

Upon Clara’s own death several years later, these 2 grandchildren each received sizable portions of her estate that they quickly squandered – much to the dismay of the other surviving children and grandchildren. This is not something that Clara would have wanted, but her will did not reflect those wishes.

Incorporating the use of per stirpes in your will can be very beneficial and make it easy for you to pass your inheritance down to future generations. However, just like any stipulation in your will, this is something that should be reviewed regularly to ensure that you still have the same feelings about how you want your estate distributed.

The Denver will lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help you draft a Colorado will that includes the best wording for your unique situation. They will take time to get to know you and determine which type of document will best serve your needs now, in the future and after you are gone. Contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to learn more about how we can help.

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