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Woman signs two different wills, leaves mess for others to sort

Estate planning is not really anyone’s favorite subject to talk about, but planning for those who will be left behind after someone dies can make a huge difference. Proper estate planning in Hudson County can go a long ways in helping prevent family members and organizations from fighting over a person’s assets.

An art gallery, a hospital and several distant family members of a woman who died in 2011 are battling it out in court for the right to her assets. The confusion has come thanks to the woman’s two separate wills, which she signed several years before she passed away. The first will gave most of her assets to family members whom she didn’t even know. However, the second will indicated that most of her fortune be donated to charitable causes, including the Washington Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The case now has turned to the courts as each of the possible beneficiaries wants their due inheritance. The case has even roped in New York Beth Israel medical center, which has been accused of pressuring the woman to make a large donation. According to reports, a trial will take place in September as the dueling parties wait to find out the fate of the woman’s fortune. If one or both of the wills is overturned, the relatives could each receive millions of dollars, while the charitable organizations could be left with nothing.

However this case turns out, many, if not all, of these problems could have been avoided had the woman in question spoken with an estate planning attorney and prepared and signed just one will. These cases can be difficult but they can also be avoided if one takes the proper steps and seeks the advice of a lawyer who fully understands estate planning.

Source: The New York Times, “How to Avoid an Estate Battle After You Die,” Paul Sullivan, June 14, 2013.

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