You might think that because the rich and famous have easy access to attorneys that they would never have an inadequate estate plan. Sadly, that is not the case. Poor or incomplete planning can happen to anyone.
One notable example involves Princess Diana. According to published reports, Princess Diana personally wrote a “Letter of Wishes” shortly after signing her Will. Unlike in Illinois, this secondary document can be used under British law to supplement what is written in the Will.
In her Letter of Wishes, Princess Diana instructed her co-executors as to the distribution of her personal property (i.e., chattel), including her valuable jewelry. It read as follows: “I would like you to divide, at your discretion, my personal chattels between my sons and my godchildren, in the division three quarters of value to my sons and one quarter to my godchildren.”
Of course, Princess Diana left a fortune when she died. While administering the Estate, her co-trustees used their “discretion” and gave mementos of only nominal value to each of the 17 godchildren and retained the rest for Prince William and Prince Harry. And despite her apparent intention, a court ultimately ruled in favor of the co-executors’ interpretation of the Letter of Wishes, citing a lack of necessary language under British law.
Lesson to be learned: Estate planning documents must be written and executed in strict accordance with applicable law to be legally enforceable.
Jason Tunquist, an attorney with Downers Grove-based Lyons Law Group, LLC, urges clients not to fall into the same trap. “There are no shortcuts to an effective estate plan” said Tunquist. For more information about developing or updating your estate plan, please contact:
Jason Tunquist, Attorney
Lyons Law Group, LLC
5333 Main St., Downers Grove, IL 60515