Unfortunately, when a resident of Northern California dies, it is sometimes unclear whether they left a will, or which of several purported wills is valid. The result can be a court battle similar to one now taking place in New York over the estate of a man who died at the age of 97 and left an estate estimated at $29 million.
The man, a Holocaust survivor, made his fortune in real estate development. His wife died before him and they had no children. A man who claimed to be related to the decedent submitted a will to the court, but his claim was dismissed for failure to prove a family relationship.
A second will was filed by the caregiver of a woman whom the caregiver claims was the deceased man's former fiancée. The caregiver's attorney says the decedent and his fiancée were separated in Poland during World War II. She was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia; he was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. The alleged fiancée died in 1999, leaving her entire estate to her caregiver. The caregiver has produced a will which includes a letter she claims was written by the decedent, leaving his estate to the alleged fiancée. The court has yet to rule on the caregiver's claim.
It is important to prepare an estate plan, but it is equally important to let loved ones know where one's estate planning documents can be found after one's death. Failing to do so can result in expensive litigation that ultimately diminishes the value of the estate.
Source: silive.com, "What's next? Fight for S.I. millionaire's fortune shifts to 2nd will," Mira Wassef, Nov. 23, 2015