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Monday, November 9, 2015

Husband’s Will Leaves Second Wife Broke!

By Mark J. Manta, Esq.

Benjamin’s second wife, Julia, was a decade younger than her sixty year old husband.  They had one son, Brad, who has Down’s syndrome. Before Julia, Ben was married to Sarah for twenty years and had two children, John and Mary, who were estranged from Ben and were now adults living on their own.  Ben and Sarah divorced ten years ago, but Ben had always hoped for a reconciliation with his children and indeed sent them money on their birthdays every year.

Julia had never given a second thought to Ben’s finances or will as he had always taken good care of her and Brad.  Ben’s work in the healthcare industry provided well for his family. They had a large home in an upscale development.  Since he started working, Ben put his money into an IRA, and it was now worth over $2 million. Julia didn’t know much about it, Ben got e-statements from Vanguard and she only saw references on the tax return she signed.

A week ago Ben had fallen asleep reading, but this time he didn’t stir as Julia approached the couch. The day after the funeral she found his will in an envelope in the antique secretary. Her heart sank when she saw that it had been drafted before they had Brad.  The will left his estate to be split evenly, half to his estranged children the other half to Julia. She didn’t think Ben would have given John and Mary this much today, not with Brad’s special needs.  When she got in touch with Vanguard regarding the IRA, they told her that Ben had never changed the beneficiary from his first wife.

She couldn’t comprehend it. She won’t have any of the IRA; it all goes to Sarah.  Ben’s estranged children will each get $125,000 and Julia gets $250,000, the house and the cars. It’s not enough. Julia realizes she will have to sell the house and she doesn’t know how she’ll provide for Brad and his special needs.

Do you think this is how Ben wanted to take care of his family? Estate planning attorneys know a lot about the law, but to tell the truth, there’s a lot we don’t know. We don’t know when you’re going to die, what the law, or your family situation, or your assets will be like then. So how do we make sure your plan (your Will or your Trust) works correctly at that future time? We’ve found that the common-sense way to keep your plan on track is to get together every so often to review things and make any needed changes. We call this program ACE Advantage.

It’s not just about having the documents. If Ben and Julia had an easy way to keep in touch with their estate attorney, the changes in their lives would have been incorporated into their estate plan.  With our ACE Advantage platform, clients of HighPoint Law Offices have access to services to keep their plan up to date.  Both Ben and Julia would have been able to make informed decisions about how best to care for Brad.  With the ability to call with quick questions or make changes, there would not have been any dark surprises waiting in the secretary.  The difficult time in dealing with the death of a spouse would have not been compounded by the consequences of an estate plan that no longer worked.


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HighPoint Law Offices assists clients with Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Medicaid Planning and IRA Preservation in Chalfont, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas including Bucks, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton Counties.



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