Monday, April 7, 2014
Jenna G. Rubin recently illustrated how a decedent's execution of a pre-printed testamentary will ultimately caused her intestate heirs and specific devisee to expend considerable time and money in probate. Rubin recounts a recent Florida case, Aldrich v. Basile, where the boilerplate will executed lacked a residuary clause, thus precipitating a struggle for property acquired by the decedent after execution because the pre-printed will simply used a list to bequest items to her brother and failed to incorporate a customary residuary clause for after-acquired property. The decedent's attempt to cure the defect by a note leaving her brother "all worldly possessions" was held invalid under Florida Probate Code, thus the court viewed any distribution not in conformity with the validly executed will to be a reformation. Here, the court refused to reform the will because it concluded the document was not ambiguous. Therefore, the interstate heirs ultimately prevailed.
Justice Pariente through a concurring opinion viewed this case as a "a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting a will without legal assistance. As this case illustrates, that decision can ultimately result in the frustration of the testator's intent, in addition to the payment of extensive attorney's fees—the precise results the testator sought to avoid in the first place."
See Jenna G. Rubin, Self-Made Will Ends Up Costing Much More Than the Drafting Expenses Saved, Rubin On Tax, March 30, 2014.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.