The following is educational and informative only. Do not rely on the following as legal advice.
Online services and form repositories now offer blank documents for the creation of wills, the formation of corporations, and even divorce. But how safe and effective are these blank forms? One Texas family found out the hard way, that “you get what you paid for.”
In a recent Houston Court of Appeals Decision, In re Estate of Parrimore, a remarried father decided to write a new will, leaving everything to his second wife, and nothing to his adult children. Before he could do that, however, he suffered a stroke. While still recovering, he completed his new will, using a form his wife obtained online, and threw a “will signing party” at his home, attended by family and friends.
Upon his death, the excluded children challenged the will in court, on several grounds. First, they alleged their father lacked testamentary intent, because of the odd circumstances with the party. Next, they alleged their father lacked testamentary capacity, because of his recent stroke. Finally, the excluded children alleged their father was under undue influence from their stepmother, because she prepared the will, and was named sole beneficiary.
In the end, the will challenge was unsuccessful, but not before an expensive trial and appeal was required. What lessons can be gleaned from the Parrimore case? First, always have an attorney participate in the preparation of important estate, guardianship, and trust documents. Testamentary intent can be properly document by a skilled attorney, including witnesses to the signing. Second, if there is any question concerning testamentary capacity due to neurological injury or disease, have your lawyer properly document capacity, in the event there are later questions. Finally, and this should go without saying, the execution of a will is a serious matter, and not the subject for parties or frivolity.
Marquardt Law Firm has been protecting clients for years, every step of the way, through planning to probate. Call us today with any questions you have concerning your estate planning, guardianship, or trust needs.