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Daughter questions beneficiary's role in father's will

An experienced attorney can help those in Texas create estate planning documents. Having a neutral party with experience with the law can help prevent accusations of undue influence. For example, an out-of-state woman is currently questioning her father's will.

Her father passed away in Dec. 2015, leaving behind an estate valued at $1.2 million. He had originally written a will in 1984 leaving most of his estate to his then-wife and his children. However, he allegedly revised his will shortly before his death. The revisions ultimately left the bulk of his estate in the hands of a couple who are described as friends of the man.

However, one of those beneficiaries, the county manager of the area where he lived, allegedly helped the man make the revisions. His daughter claims that the woman falsely represented herself as an attorney, prompting the man to seek her guidance. The woman argues that she never said she was an attorney and that it is legal for a person who is not a member of the bar to draft a will in Massachusetts.

The daughter also questions the man's state of mind at the time he created the new will. In the will, he named his brother and former sister-in-law as executors -- choices she claims he would have known were ill-suited; they declined to serve in that role following the man's death. The county manager was named as a back-up, but the court declined to name her as the executor, instead naming a neutral third party. The daughter asserts that the man's living conditions -- a house she describes as deteriorated that lacked plumbing and heating -- are further proof of his mental instability in the months preceding his death.

While it may not be legally necessary to have an attorney draft a will in all states, having a neutral third party involved can help prevent disputes such as this. Additionally, discussing non-traditional distributions -- such as leaving the bulk of a person's estate to friends rather than children -- with those affected can help all parties better understand the reasons certain decisions were made. In Texas, one of the purposes of going through the estate planning process could be nullified if loved ones have questions about the testator's ability to make decisions for him or herself at the time.

Source: vineyardgazette.com, "Tangled Probate Dispute Involves Dukes County Manager", Steve Myrick and Julia Wells, Nov. 17, 2016

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