Ask Ed: Estate Planning Will Problems

Advisor’s question: When my client died, she no longer owned the stocks named in her will. What happens to the gift?

Ed’s Answer:

It depends on the wording of the will. In many cases, the gift is said to have adeemed. That means it is lost.

For example, a will says, ”…give my gold Cartier watch to my niece.” If the watch is missing, the gift is lost as well.

What if the will says, “…my executors shall buy my niece a gold Cartier watch from the sale of my stocks?” That may require the executors to purchase a new watch.

Examples of Bad Will Drafting

“I leave my Nortel shares worth $60,000 to
my nephew and a similar amount to my niece.”

Well, what is wrong with this will clause?

The intention is clear; however, the drafting is a problem.

Here are some drafting errors:

• Who are the nephew and niece and why are they not named?

• Are there multiple people who can claim the gift?

• What if the Nortel stock does not exist when the will is read?

• Can the stock be worthless?

• Will the gift to the niece be worthless stocks or $60,000 in cash?

Years ago, the nephew or niece could not sue the person who prepared this will. They did not have any contractual privity. Now they can sue whoever came up with this plan for negligence.

What you need to know about wills has changed.

You need to get serious about wills. I am dedicated to help people learn about making wills.