Why Your Attorney Needs to Draft Your Estate Plan

People often try to avoid legal expenses by drafting estate planning documents on their own.  They may not realize the expense they actually create for those they leave behind, as well as the disappointment that their loved ones may feel when they do not receive the share of the property that they expected. In a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court decision, Roth v. Newpol, No. AC16P-715, the Appeals Court determined that the term “any monies remaining in her estate” did not include real property located in the town of West Roxbury that her life partner would have inherited if “any monies” were determined by the Courts to include real estate.

In Roth v. Newpol, the decedent, Evelyn Shakir, and her life partner were English professors and writers.  Although experienced with the use of the English language, they were not lawyers.  The decision not to use a lawyer cost them dearly.  The life partner had obtained a model of a will from a colleague.  He drafted the will using the model and Evelyn executed the will six weeks before she died in 2010.  

Evelyn and her brother, Phillip, had inherited a house in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, from their mother, who had died in 1990.  Phillip died two years after Evelyn, in 2012.  A dispute arose between Evelyn’s life partner and Phillip’s estate as to who was to receive Evelyn’s ½ interest in the West Roxbury property.  Because Evelyn’s will used the term “any monies remaining in the estate” and not the typical language utilized by attorneys (“all the rest and residue and remainder of my estate”), Justice Virginia M. Ward of the Probate and Family Court made the decision on cross motions for summary judgment that the language did not include real estate and that the real estate passed by intestacy to Phillip’s estate.  Justice Ward’s decision was affirmed by the Appeals Court.  

MORAL: Those who need estate planning services should heed the old adage, “He who represents himself in a legal matter has a fool for a client” and instead should engage the services of a qualified estate planning lawyer.

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