Archive for the ‘Will’ Category

Do I get the inheritance that was promised to me?

Friday, April 12th, 2013

A woman (let’s call her Sue) called my office this week and explained that she had been a caregiver for an elderly lady (lets call her Sadie) and Sadie had promised to give Sue her car when Sadie passed away.   Sadie did indeed pass away recently and Sue found out that Sadie had a Will but there was no mention of Sue in the Will at all.  Sue wanted to know if she could enforce the oral agreement that she would get the car.

Unfortunately for Sue, the short answer was ‘no’.

Sadie could have added the gift of the car to her Will at any time before her death.  Instead her Will had not been changed in a number of years and all of her estate was to be divided equally between her children.

Sue explained that the children never came to see Sadie while she was alive, and they never visited her in the hospital or nursing home.  Sue had worked for Sadie for a number of years and she was the only on-going companion and friend in the last few years of Sadie’s life.

Of course, this is only one side of the story and I have no way of knowing if it is true or not.  It doesn’t really matter because the estate will be distributed according to the terms of the Will and Sue will not receive the car (or anything else).

There is a moral to this story.  Everyone should review their estate planning documents, including the Will, at least every few years just to make sure that you don’t want to make any changes.

If Sadie had done this review, she could have easily left her car to Sue as she wanted.  As it stands now, Sadie’s friend Sue is left with nothing.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Another New Year! Time to review your estate plan!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Happy New Year!  I hope that everyone has a great and wonderful 2013.

And, to get things off to a good start, I’d like to suggest that you review your estate plan to make sure it is up to date and has taken into account all of life’s changes since you created the previous version.

New members to the family?  Some members no longer with us?  Perhaps a new pet that you want to make sure is taken care of if you are not able to care for him or her yourself?  Have you become involved in a new charitable organization that you think deserves a gift?  Perhaps the person you have named as the agent under your Power of Attorney is no longer capable or willing to do the job?  Perhaps someone in your family has received a college degree that would make them a better fit for the job of executor or agent?  Perhaps you have new acquisitions that need to be re-titled in the name of your trust?  Planning a job change this year?  Perhaps retirement?  Is your health status changing?

This is a good time to take a few minutes to just think about these ideas.  And if you think your estate plans needs to be updated, please give us a call.  We’d be glad to help!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Do you have a blended family?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

My parents were divorced and my dad remarried a woman who had children, so I come from a ‘blended’ family.  I am also divorced from my children’s father and I’m now married to a man who has children from his first marriage.   All to say that I know what it’s like to live in a ‘blended’ family.

I’ve heard that the schools now have projects to trace your family ‘bush’ instead of your family ‘tree’.  It’s a sign of the times.

But, the laws haven’t quite caught up with society.

A step-child, even if they have been in your household and you have acted as their parent for their entire lives, is not considered your child for inheritance purposes.  And problems can arise when a current spouse and children from a previous relationship all want to take ‘their rightful portion’ of an inheritance.

There are ways to take care of the ones you love by talking to an Estate Planning attorney and making sure that your estate is used the way you want.  This is important for everyone.

It is even more important if you have a blended family.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Is an adopted child considered blood line in a will?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I found this question on the internet awhile ago, and thought that others might have the same question themselves.

In this case, there wasn’t a lot of information other than the fact that this man had adopted his wife’s child, but wanted to make sure that all of his inheritances in his Will would pass only to his bloodline.

Legally, as soon as you adopt a child, it is considered YOUR child for all intents and purposes.  By law, there is no distinction between a child by blood and a child by adoption.  Generally, when the adoption is finalized, the child loses the legal connection to the birth parents and gains the legal connection to the adoptive parents.

This is different than the status of a step-child.  A step-child is not considered your child for any legal action, even though you were the parent for the child’s entire life.

There are ways of drafting your Will, Trust or other estate planning documents to create your desired end result.

You can disinherit any of your children by putting the language into the document.  It doesn’t have to be an adopted child.  I have had clients who wanted to make sure that one of their children did not get anything when they died because of things that child did, or perhaps they have already given one child more than his or her share and now wanted to make sure that what was left would go to another child.

Some people also give different amounts to different children by naming them specifically along with a percentage of the estate value

In this man’s case, he could write his Will so that his adopted child did not inherit something that he felt strongly should be kept in the blood line.

I’ve also had clients who wanted to make sure that their step-children were treated the same as their biological children.    I had one client who wanted to make sure that their son’s step-daughter was treated as any of their other grandchildren.

This is relatively easy to accomplish with the right drafting, but you need to make sure it is done correctly or you will not get your desired result.  Even worse, you might end up with a document that causes your family to spend lots of dollars, even the entire value of your estate, in litigation to fight over what you really meant when you wrote that you wanted your things to go to ‘your bloodline’.   This is one good example of why it is important to go to an Estate Planning professional instead of trying a ‘do it yourself’ plan that you find in the store, on software, or on the internet.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

When does a Will become effective?

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

I’ve gotten a couple of questions lately about when a Will becomes effective.  One of these questions was from a son whose mother had a habit of writing and rewriting her Will on a regular basis to delete one or another of her children as a beneficiary based on who was the last person to visit the mother.  Another question was from a man whose brother had died and he wanted to know if a written, but unsigned, copy of a Will was effective.

A Will is a document that tells the world (and most importantly, the court) how you want your ‘stuff’ distributed after you have died.  Most people think of this as telling the world about your plan for the inheritance of your estate.

Contrary to popular belief, a Will does not become effective when it is written, or when it is signed, or even when it is executed correctly with all of the proper witnesses and signatures and put in a safe-deposit box.

A properly executed Will becomes effective the moment after the person who is the subject of the Will takes their last breath.  That is, only when the person who is the subject of the Will has died.

This is because as long as a person is alive, they can change their minds about what they want to do.  Most Wills have some verbiage that says something to the effect that the person revokes any and all existing Wills and that this is now their Last Will and Testament.  But if they are still alive, they can always come back next year, or next week, and do the same thing again.

Also, unless the Will was executed with all of the correct processes and procedures, it is just a bunch of words on a paper and basically worthless.  If you want your Will to be effective at your death, you need to have the proper execution formalities for your jurisdiction.

The last Will that was properly executed before your death is the one that the courts will find to be effective, even if you had changed your mind and thought you were making the right changes in later documents.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at