A Reminder About Handwritten Wills

Handwritten wills can come to be for a variety of different reasons. Some write them because they never wanted to face their mortality, while others want to avoid facing their kids or the discussions that occur as a result of appropriate planning. Many simply do not want to pay an attorney.

However, when writing a will on your own, you take the risk that your wishes will not be carried out and that the people you love will get hurt. Sometimes they lack the formalities of a proper will and trusts for beneficiaries who could not – or should not – manage funds. Some also fail to name proper fiduciaries, while others fail to consider all of the assets. The list of problems in handwritten wills goes on and on, and a handwritten will frequently indicates an overall lack of a cohesive estate plan.

 

Aretha Franklin’s Will

The case of the late Aretha Franklin is a cautionary tale on handwritten wills. She used to have a close family, but money does things to people. Now, her four children are in court fighting over her wishes (i.e., her assets) rather than remembering her contributions and basking in her legacy. Her estate is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. Sadly, it is now a matter of if the family can avoid squandering it in litigation.

 

What makes Franklin’s case especially complex is the absence of a published will, with her final wishes scribbled onto three documents found inside her home at the time of her death. With no published will to be found, her estate would have legally been divided equally between her children, but the discovery of these handwritten documents complicates matters. Given the nature, complexity, and value of her estate, this leads to ambiguity, conflict and literally millions in potential legal fees plus the conflict between her loved ones.

 

Plan to Avoid Conflicts 

With all of this being said, not only does having a proper estate plan completed by a knowledgeable professional limit the potential conflicts for a family, but it ends up saving money that can be used by the beneficiaries rather than enriching the lawyers. After guiding clients through this process for 26+ years, we find it apparent that failing to plan is an act of selfishness. 

 

When most people plan, they usually do it to benefit others and not themselves. You will either be too impaired or not be around to enjoy the benefit of your planning. But your loved ones can benefit from your thoughtful planning, making them less stressed, and leaving a memory that you cared enough to make their lives more comfortable after you are gone. That is a pleasant memory to leave your loved ones with.

 

If you need assistance in resolving handwritten wills or other cases regarding elder law in Montgomery County, PA, then contact Slutsky Elder Law. We have the experience with fixing handwritten wills that can help clear up any issues with estate planning and ensure comfort for surviving family members. Those in need of an estate planning attorney in Chester County, PA, and its surrounding areas should contact Slutsky Elder Law today.