You have probably heard the adage “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” and it appears that statement couldn’t be truer when it comes to lawyers who drafted their own last will and testament.
In the annals of history, many prominent attorneys have surprisingly died either without a will or with incomplete or confusing estate plans. Across the united states, there are well-documented cases of lawyers who left vague language in their estate plans that caused family feuds and costly litigation.
Across the united states, there are well-documented cases of lawyers who left vague language in their estate plans that caused family feuds and costly litigation.
Attorneys hailing from the Keystone state are certainly no exception to the rule. Edward Paxson, a prominent Philadelphia attorney, and judge at the turn of the century wished to donate a large portion of his estate to charitable organizations. Paxson, however, failed to meet a statutory provision that required charitable donations that were transferred by deed to be observed by two credible witnesses. The PA supreme court held that his estate plan did not meet the statutory guidelines.
Wills need to be error free
If you draft your will and make some mistakes when writing it, you will not be around to clear up any confusion. Wills need to be specific and follow any court rules or guidelines. Wills with incomplete or vague language can easily be misinterpreted.
An example of this comes from another prominent Pennsylvania lawyer, Hugh Bellas. Bellas was described by others as “A lawyer’s best friend” because of the amount of legal work that his self-drafted will produced. Bellas hand wrote his last will and testament with instructions that his estate be split up between his three daughters. However, there was also a clause in the will that specified that his daughters’ daughters receive more than his daughters’ sons. After much litigation, the court found the language to be inoperable.
The devil is in the details
When it comes to self-drafted wills, the law is very unforgiving. The language in a will must be very specific and many hand written wills that are drafted without an attorney contain non-specific language that can be open to interpretation. Attorneys should use standard language when drafting wills to ensure there is no confusion over your wishes.
If you need assistance with your estate plans please call an experienced attorney at The Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. You can trust that we will take the time to ensure your estate plans are well crafted and error free. Call Us Today at (215)942-2100