The intestate rules often work a very different result from the contents of the copy of the will. Such was the case of Isabel Wilner.
Ms. Wilner wrote a will and subsequent codicil (amendment), which she kept in a lockbox at her home. Upon her passing at the age of 91, Ms. Wilner’s caregiver went to the lockbox and discovered the original will missing. Ms. Wilner’s only surviving heir was a niece with whom Ms. Wilner’s relationship was strained. The terms of will copy left Ms. Wilner’s entire estate to charity. Without the will her niece receives the entire estate through intestacy. Because two witnesses could not testify to both the execution and contents of the will (only Ms. Wilner’s attorney could meet this burden), the copy of the will could not be probated.
This case creates a lesson for testators. If you want your wishes to be carried out after your death, BE EXCRUCIATINGLY CAREFUL WITH THE ORIGINAL WILL DOCUMENT. The law of wills makes it very clear that original documents matter a great deal despite the modern world of email, social media, text messages, scanned documents and the like. The Wilner case confirms this fact. Get a safe deposit box. Put the original in a safe. Or ask your attorney to keep the will in his office safe deposit box.
If you have questions about your will, it is crucial that you have an experienced will, trust and elder law attorney review your situation. At Amori & Associates, LLC, experienced will, trust and elder law attorney Scott M. Amori would be happy to discuss your situation. Please contact Amori & Associates at (570) 421-1406 for a no obligation consultation.