A Story About Your Home, Your Heirs And Probate
PART 1: THE STORY, THE FACTS
The names in this story have been changed and the facts are a combination of three cases but the story itself is representative of what really happens as a result of your estate planning or your lack of planning.
Let’s first address what an “estate” is. It is your belongings when you pass away. This might include a house, a car, a bank account, and investment such as a 401K or stocks or mutual funds or an annuity, a sentimental clock from great grandpa, your pet(s), or your wedding rings. If you own only one or any combination of assets then you have an estate. There is no requirement to be a millionaire to have an estate.
In this story the estate contained a home where Betty, the decedent, lived for 35 years. Betty was 88 years old when she came to me. There was no mortgage and Betty faithfully kept up with the house, the taxes, and the insurance. Every month she paid her utilities from her checking account where her social security was deposited along with a small pension provided by her former employer. Betty had enough income to support herself and her house and she was able to save a little most months.
Betty had one child, Jennifer or Jen, and a grandson, the apple of her eye, Robert. Both were very important to her and Robert even lived with Betty and helped take care of her. Betty wanted to leave her home to Jen and eventually to Robert. Her checking account was to go to Jen as well. Betty still had her driver’s license but did not drive her car choosing instead to allow her grandson to drive her to appointments and he also used her car for his own purposes.
This all seems simple enough but there were a few more facts that had to be considered before I began to draft Betty’s documents. We discussed her health and I learned that Betty had a few medical issues and several doctors and we talked about who she would like to assist her with her business decisions and health care decisions should she become unable to handle those things on her own.
The initial meeting with Betty went smoothly and we spent a bit over an hour together discussing her desires, the choices before her, and what type of planning was necessary. Betty came prepared with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all of her important family, friends, financial institutions and physicians along with the access codes for her lock box, her email and her smart phone.
Read more about what Betty and I decided to do with the planning of her estate in Part 2: Planning the Estate.