Your Will Can Change the Law, Well Kind of…Why You Need a Will – Part 2

May 18, 2022

“All I know is that you’d better have my money, calling me up here like this,” Faye said as she walked into the attorney’s office.  “Ms. Reynolds, please, have a seat…if you don’t mind,” the attorney responded. “If I don’t mind?  Well I DO mind! Anything that you need to tell me, you can tell me while I am standing,” Faye shot back.  “Where is my money?” 
“There is no money…well, not the amount that you had in mind, Ms. Reynolds,” the attorney responded.  Faye glared as the attorney continued, “Ms. Reynolds, did you know that your mother had a will?”  Obviously annoyed, Faye responded, “A will? What does that have to do with me and my inheritance.  I was Mother’s only child.  There should be no question that everything she left goes to me.”  “There would be no question, Ms. Reynolds, had your mother died without a will. However, she had a will, and she didn’t leave you as much as you thought she had.  In fact, if she didn’t think that you’d cause a ruckus, I suspect that she would not have left you anything.”  “Oh, they are in for a fight.  They don’t know who they are messing with!” Faye shot back.  The attorney paused briefly, and then continued. “Your mother included an in terrorem clause in her will – a no contest clause, in other words.  She left you $5,000 from her estate and provided that you would forfeit that amount if you filed an objection to her will.”  The attorney handed her a copy of the will and some other documents. 
Faye glared down at the documents in disbelief, “you mean to tell me that all of that money my Mother had…the house…her fine china collection…the Barbie dolls… She didn’t leave me any of that?”  “I’m afraid not, Ms. Reynolds,” the attorney responded.  “Then to whom did she leave it?” Faye asked.  The attorney looked down at the will. “It appears that your mother, Paula, left the majority of her estate to her niece, Michelle; her nephew, James; and…and her cat, Fluffy, by way of a trust, of course,” the attorney replied, suppressing a chuckle.  Faye’s jaw dropped in disbelief and she quickly began gathering her things.  She threw the will and other paperwork at the attorney.  “I can’t believe Mother would leave that stupid cat more than she left me.  And that Michelle and James, I knew that they would be trouble the moment she took them in!  Those needy, good for nothing…” Faye continued complaining as she stormed out of the attorney’s office, jumped into her car and sped off, never to return to her hometown again. 
Shortly after Faye’s meeting with her attorney, Michelle hired an attorney to probate Auntie Paula’s will.  The attorney filed a petition to probate the will in probate court and had Michelle appointed as the Executrix of her Aunt’s estate, just as the will had directed.  Michelle’s attorney attempted to serve Faye with a copy of the petition at her last known address, but, to no one’s surprise, she could not be found.  They served her via publication instead.  And somehow, she managed to find out and claim her $5,000 check. 
The moral of the story, short and sweet, is that with a will, you have control over how your assets will be distributed after you pass away.  However, without a will, your estate will be divided equally to your heirs at law and without regard to what you would want or what would make the most sense for your family.