The three grandsons came into the office and were confident. “Don’t worry. This is going to be an easy estate.” They began recounting the many assets that Grandma had accumulated and the instructions that she gave to them over the past few years. As she was declining in her past few years, she made sure…doubly sure, that everyone knew what she wanted.
When any of the grandsons raised the issue of writing this down in a Last Will & Testament, she was adamant. She would set her jaw and say “Don’t get the Courts involved in this. I am telling you (with an emphasis on the word “you” to whichever grandson was in front of her at the moment) what I want. That will be good enough!”
When grandma died, most of her assets already had beneficiaries. This account went here and that account went there. But not all of the accounts or houses (she had more than one) had been accounted for. There were no beneficiaries named for about 1/3 of her estate. Her grandsons said “Don’t worry. We know what she wanted.” And that is when the trouble started.
You see, grandma had a son whom she had not seen in many, many years. He had cut her out of his life and never looked back. Grandma was not leaving anything to him.
When there is no Last Will & Testament, the law requires that we follow the distribution list set out in the Pennsylvania statutes. Each child will receive an equal portion of the assets that do not have a beneficiary already named when a person dies without a will. So we had to break the news to the grandsons that grandma’s houses, which had no named beneficiaries, were going to be divided between her two sons.
The three grandsons’ father was the one who stayed on the farm. He had passed away before Grandma. She wanted his sons, these three grandsons, to get both houses. But now the son who had left all those years ago – he is inheriting one house and the three grandsons the other. The grandsons were furious! Furious to leave my office and consult with another attorney. And then another. And finally to return and allow me to administer the intestate (that means no last will & testament) estate.
The moral of the story? Even if you know what grandma wanted, tell her that she needs to write it down in a formal Last Will & Testament. Otherwise, who knows what will happen.