I had a recent visit that reminded me of the uncertainty surrounding family behavior and the effect it can have on a person’s estate.  This gentleman’s father passed away a year ago.  He knew that his father had a will (he and his mother saw it), had a general idea of what it said, and also knew that his father had several bank accounts and some life insurance.  The stickler is that he cannot provide any supporting documentation (bank statements, life insurance policies, the will, etc.), which makes it very difficult to make an assessment of any potential claims he may have against his father’s estate.

Then the family “fun” started.  Allegedly, his brother “lost” the will and this gentleman does not know who the attorney is who drafted the will.  Although that can put a wrench in the process, there are lost will procedures that can be followed to effectively probate the lost will.  The “fun” continues.  Allegedly, the brother also has been cashing checks made out to the father and recently has been carrying a lot of cash – arguably from his father’s accounts.  I have my doubts about the veracity of some of those statements as I know bank procedures and am fairly certain those transactions could not have occured without some level of authorizing document.

Still, do you think the father had any idea something like this could happen after his passing?  Arguably, there was a will, and that was good planning by the father.  As shown by this example, however, there are still contingencies that can occur that will keep your wishes from being carried out according to your plan.  I encourage anyone doing estate planning to make sure they seek out an attorney who will help you address these contingencies by providing practical advice for protecting your estate planning documents and making sure they are followed after your passing.