“Penny Wise and Pound Foolish” when it comes to Legal Zoom and other Document Companies
The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled for two nieces not included in a will drawn up by a testator on an “E-Z Legal Form.” In Aldrich v. Basile (SC11-2147), the testator Ann Aldrich used an E-Z Legal form to devise certain items she had listed on the form. The form did not include a residuary clause, which provides for distribution of property not specifically listed in the will.
Aldrich had specifically devised the primary assets of her estate to her sister, and to her brother if the sister did not survive her. Aldrich’s sister predeceased her, and her brother was appointed as personal representative of the estate.
Two of Aldrich’s nieces, the children of another previously deceased brother, asserted an interest in the estate, claiming that all property not specifically devised should pass to them by the laws of intestacy. The surviving brother claimed that the intent of the testator was that the entire estate should pass to him. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the nieces. The court held that a note granting all her property to her surviving brother, which was hand written by the testator after execution of her will, was not relevant as it did not meet execution requirements of the Florida Probate Code.
Florida Justice Pariente, in her concurring opinion, stated that the case reminded her of the old adage, “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” in that Aldrich had used a commercially accessible form apparently without legal advice, which determined the unintended result.
In this case, a similar result would occur under Maine intestacy laws. Rudman Winchell’s E-State Planning service can provide you with the efficiency and economy of commercial forms, while also providing the peace of mind that comes with the legal advice of a Maine attorney that your testamentary intent will be properly reflected in your estate planning documents. An investment in estate planning documents drafted and reviewed by Maine lawyers during your life can save your beneficiaries thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees after your death.
Read more about the Aldrich case at http://www.flascblog.com/, or read the opinion at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2014/sc11-2147.pdf.