Recent Hilbrich Blog Entries

Professional Estate Planning Can Save Years of Legal Battles

Losing a loved one can be a very difficult and emotional time. It can be even more challenging if that loved one leaves unclear instructions as to his or her wishes for the distribution of property and other personal belongings. Often times in such situations, expensive and lengthy court battles over the deceased’s assets ensue causing additional family grief. Take, for instance, the recent case of William Pereira and Joseph McConnell v. Monica Pereria, et. al where the court had to interpret a handwritten will created in 1917 which disposed of 358 acres of land. The will bequeathed all of the land to Eva Sleeper upon her death to the two children of a family friend, Joseph McConnell and Margaret McConnell, and then to their surviving children, if any. As it happened, Eva passed away in 1933, at which time Joseph and Margaret McConnell both inherited the land. Joseph died in 1989, leaving behind two children, Joseph Jr. and Julia Tarr. Julia died in 2007, leaving behind two children, John and Karen LeFebre (grandchildren of Joseph McConnell). Margaret McConnell died in 2011, survived by her two children, William and Monica Pereira. Margaret’s children along with Joseph Jr. brought suit trying to put the land in their names, leaving out the grandchildren of Joseph McConnell. They claimed that the grandchildren did not inherit the land because the will required Julia Tarr to survive both Joseph and Margaret McConnell before her children could receive a share in the acreage and since she died 4 years before Margaret, her grandchildren did not take under the will. Both the trial court and the appellate court ruled in favor of the grandchildren, stating that the will did not intend for any surviving child to outlive both Margaret and Joseph McConnell. Instead, the courts ruled that each child received an interest in the land when they were born, thus the grandchildren were entitled to their mother’s interest in the land. As illustrated in the above case, failure to leave behind clear instructions for your descendants on what your final wishes are for your assets can create unnecessary family conflicts and complicated court proceedings. Instead, taking the time to prepare for the inevitable by creating a clear, concise legally effective instrument, such as a professionally drafted will or trust, to dispose of your property upon your death can save your loved ones years of expensive legal battles and emotional turmoil. To determine what type of estate plan is right for you, call 877-877- LAW2 (5292) or 219-924-2427 for a free consultation with one of our top estate planning attorneys.

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