Everyone knows they should have a basic estate plan. Powers of Attorney grant decision making authority for incapacity and a will specifies what should happen after your passing. Many people fail to grasp the potential for complication when some of your loved ones are estranged.
Consider the case of Sally who lost her adult son, George, in a car accident. Sally was no longer married to George’s father and George had not seen his father in over a decade. George was a young man and didn’t have a will. George’s accident left his estate with a potential lawsuit that could bring a considerable settlement.
If George had a will, his probate would be simple and straight forward. The executor would have legal authority to pursue that claim. Since he didn’t have a will, there must be a heirship proceeding to establish his heirs and appoint an administrator. The first problem may be locating the father. Since George wasn’t married both of his parents must have notice of the heirship proceeding.
Once the father is located it is possible he could be appointed the administrator for his son’s estate. In addition if the only heirs are the parents, he will inherit one half of his son’s estate. I suspect George might not have wanted that outcome for his estranged father.
This can get even more tangled if George had a child. The child would inherit but if the child is a minor someone else must be the administrator of the estate. If George was not married to the mother of his child, the courts will be looking back at George’s parents for administration. Should that be the grandfather who has not been in the picture? Most people would want to choose someone else to make those decisions regarding the estate that will go to their child.
A scenario that is even less clear arises if George was living with someone or was engaged. That person will likely have no rights at all. Once again, do you think that would be George’s wishes? While it may difficult to think about and may seem very expensive to young adults. Estate planning is for everyone!