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Man's estate gains even in death thanks to planning

We focus a lot of attention on the importance of estate planning for the value it provides in making sure each New Jersey resident has a chance to articulate clearly his or her wishes for the future. Whether it is to specify the level of extraordinary measures doctors should take in case of an emergency, providing for the care of a loved one or distributing assets to heirs, there are tools that can be used in estate planning to cover the bases.

One thing we don't talk about much, however, is the potential value an estate may realize as a result of those plans after a person has died, whether it be because of a will or a trust. A recent court decision by a jury out of Cumberland County provides a great example of what we mean. A jury awarded the estate of a Vineland man more than $1 million in connection with a medical malpractice suit.

The man died in 2004 from a blood clot in a blood vessel leading to his lungs. At issue in the suit, filed by the man's estate, was the claim that the doctor who had seen him at South Jersey Healthcare-Regional Medical Center the day before the man died had failed to diagnose his problem.

Instead, according to attorneys for the estate, the man was tagged as suffering from a virus and sent home. He didn't even receive any prescription treatments.

Because he continued to suffer symptoms the night of his discharge, and concerned that he might not survive, the man quickly drew up and signed a will naming his best friend as executor of his estate. It was the friend, as executor, who pursued the malpractice suit. Had no will been in place, who knows what would have happened?

The full amount awarded came to $1,065,000.

Source: NJ.Com, "Vineland man's estate awarded $1.065 M in malpractice case," Jason Laday, The News of Cumberland County, Jan. 31, 2012

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