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Probate Horror Story #9: The Handwritten Will

Welcome to the ninth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential problems that can occur if you make a joint will with your spouse. This month we will focus on the risks of creating a will by yourself.

Fictional Situation: Arthur

  • 75-year-old widower, unmarried
  • 1 ex-wife
  • 2 adult children, 5 grandchildren
  • 1 adult step-child
  • Owns a home, car and valuable antiques
  • Handwrote a will, revised it multiple times and kept it hidden

Arthur had the very best intentions when he hand-wrote a document outlining how he wanted his estate distributed after he was gone. Unfortunately, he had no legal training and was unaware of the steps he should have taken to make his will legal and binding.

None of Arthur’s family members knew he had a will. While mourning his passing, no one had the time or energy to sift through the mounds of paperwork in his home. The estate moved through probate and was divided by the courts pursuant to the laws of intestacy because the document was not located.

Arthur had made several revisions to his document over the years, most recently adding that he did not want one of his adult children to inherit any of his estate due to bad blood between them. However, because no will was found by the time the estate was divided, this estranged child did receive part of his estate, including some of the sentimental and valuable antiques Arthur wished his other child would have received. This was just one of the many family quarrels that ensued in the months following his death.

Even if the will had been found in time, Arthur made many errors in his handwritten will:

  • The document was not signed, witnessed or notarized. It would not have been legally binding.
  • Important wording was misspelled which might have caused the will to be invalid or contested due to the ambiguities.
  • He was unaware of the different methods available to avoid or save on estate taxes and court fees his family would have incurred, thereby reducing the overall value of the estate.
  • The will was written with ambiguous language. It was not completely clear who the beneficiaries were.

It is in the best interest of your estate and the protection of your family members that you enlist the help of a professional Denver estate planning lawyer to help you craft and maintain a proper will or trust document. The Denver will lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC have the vast experience and knowledge of the legal system to know what types of documents you should have for your unique estate and family situation. To learn more or to hire a Denver estate planning attorney, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.

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