• Ryan M. Cuen, Oct. 2018

Estate Planning Examples to Avoid

Updated: Jul 9, 2018

An often overlooked benefit of professional estate planning; avoiding mistakes that ruin your best intentions. Here are just a few examples:

Well, it looked like the right place to sign…

In 1962, George Glace signed one of the blank spaces of a pre-printed legal form as follows:

“I, George Glace, of Sunbury, Pa., of the County of North’d and State of Pennsylvania, being of sound mind, memory and understanding do make and publish this my last will and testament…”

The document, which went on to say that Mr. Glace wished to divide his property between his daughter and his “Lady Friend, Lillian F. Harvey,” was submitted to the Register of Wills after he passed away.

There was no question that George Glace had indeed signed the will. It was also signed by two witnesses.

But after an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1964, the will was thrown out. The reason? Mr. Glace signed the will in the wrong place. The statute required a will to be signed “at the end thereof.” Even though Mr. Glace signed the will in a logical place, and his mistake was understandable, the courts enforced the statute strictly.

“It is perhaps unfortunate that decedent’s testamentary intentions are frustrated,” the court wrote. “The strictness with which this section of the Wills Act must be enforced is a matter of legislative mandate.”

His entire estate passed to his daughter, and his lady friend (to whom he wished to leave 50%) received nothing.

In re Glace’s Estate, 413 Pa. 91, 196 A.2d 297 (1964).

Moral of this story:

We’re sometimes hired by families to try to pick up the pieces after careless estate planning goes wrong. Such cases can be lucrative, but frankly we’d rather make a living helping people get it right the first time.

Is estate planning with a legal professional any better than buying an estate-plan-in-a-box software package or a pre-printed form from a legal stationery shop? Our experience tells us it is. Too often, people hire lawyers to try to repair the damage after shoddy estate planning goes wrong.

We would much prefer to help you do it right on the front end than do damage control later. In the long run, good estate planning is a better value for you, and more satisfying for everyone involved.

We recognize that estate planning is complicated. As a result, we think you’ll agree that while our services require an investment of your money and time, our approach is more cost-effective than alternatives available elsewhere, including many other law firms. Proper planning can often prevent such losses.

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