Woodland Hills residents likely often hear estate planning experts talk about the importance of setting up a will sooner rather than later. The reason behind this urgency may be to ensure that people avoid putting it off until it is too late. When one dies intestate, he or she opens up the possibility of his or her estate being managed and dispersed against his or her wishes.
A family in North Carolina is currently learning firsthand the importance of having legal documentation outlining the administration of an estate. In their case, not just one, but two family members died without wills. This left the door open for the former wife of their deceased brother to step in and assume the role of administrator for not just his estate, but that of their recently deceased mother's, as well.
The couple had actually been separated for two years before she officially filed for divorce in mid-May. While her husband had been served the papers, he died before the divorce was finalized. Citing his death as leaving her with no incentive to complete the divorce, she withdrew her petition. As state law did not allow her to be disinherited, she was then made administrator of his estate. She then surprised all involved by also applying to be the administrator of her former mother-in-law's estate. Given that none of her children had yet applied, her request was granted.
In this case, her children had claimed that the woman had made it known to them how she wanted her assets disbursed. Yet without a will, they had no way to validate their claims. This may serve as a strong example of why drafting a will is so important. An estate planning attorney may be a great source of information to turn to while creating one.
Source: WLOS "Estranged Wife Takes Late Husband's Estate" Jennifer M. Emmert, Sept. 24, 2015