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When a Will Divides an Estate, and Also Divides a Family

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Don't Outlive Your Money
Don’t Outlive Your Money

More data about the need for estate reform in the US

she requested a copy of the will. It turns out her grandmother, who was suffering from severe Alzheimer’s, had signed a will in September 2012 that reaffirmed a 2007 will that split her assets among her five children, with her son’s share going to his children. Five days later — and a week before she died — the grandmother signed another will that disinherited her son’s children.

…And it raised common competing issues in these cases: Grandma may have had diminished capacity or been swayed by her daughters, he said. “But judges work very hard to protect individual rights to dispose of their property as they wish.”

The bar to overturn a will is high. “The capacity needed to make a will is very low, lower than to enter into a legal contract,” said Adam von Poblitz, head of estate planning for Citi Private Bank. “You could have someone who had dementia, but if they had moments of lucidity they could execute a fully valid will.”

For Kate, it wasn’t only about the money but about how her aunts treated her. “They started calling us greedy from the beginning,” she said.

Disinheriting family members is an extreme step and one that is not even allowed in many countries. John Davis, faculty chairman of the families in business program at Harvard Business School, has studied inheritance laws around the world and found that in most places people have limited discretion over leaving money to heirs.

“Whether it’s sharia in Muslim countries or the Napoleonic Code throughout Europe and parts of Latin America, what you give to your heirs is tightly prescribed,” Mr. Davis said. “Anglo-Saxon countries are the exception to this rule.”

In reality, Mr. Davis said, unequal inheritance is rare even in the United States, though he often advocates for it to be used more, particularly when a family business is involved.

(click here to continue reading When a Will Divides an Estate, and Also Divides a Family – NYTimes.com.)

All too frequently the lawyers are the ones who end up with the bulk of the inheritance, especially in cases where litigation is involved. Not to mention, the estate always seems to be smaller than anticipated by the aggrieved parties…

Written by Seth Anderson

June 22nd, 2014 at 11:00 am

Posted in News-esque

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