People in California may have heard an interesting and amusing story about a woman who discovered a treasure trove of $100 bills in the pockets of the clothing of an 85-year-old woman who had recently died. The woman found some $30,000 in currency in the clothing, which had been given to her by family members of the deceased.
After discovering the hidden windfall, the woman did in fact return the money to the grateful family members who, in return for the woman's honesty, gave her $1000 as a token of appreciation.
While this is a heartwarming and amusing human interest story, it's also likely to elicit groans from people who know the importance of estate planning. Leaving things to chance is never a sound estate planning strategy and, had things gone differently in this case, the woman's rightful heirs would have been deprived of a substantial sum they should have had the benefit of enjoying.
Of course, the cornerstone of an estate plan is the will, which is generally the most important document a person has to direct the distribution of their earthly possessions and assets after their death. By identifying and accounting for these assets in a will, the deceased can ensure that there is no confusion or colorable argument over the true disposition of the property intended for their heirs, family members and other loved ones.
Creating a will can be simple, but if it's not done correctly it can be of little or no legal significance. People preparing a will may find that it takes less time and money than they thought, but they should always make sure it's properly drafted and executed by an experienced estates and trusts attorney.
Source: NBC10.com, "Bucks County Woman Returns $30K She Found in Old Clothes," March 27, 2013