Cristyn: Once upon a time, no, that’s how fairy tales start. This is a horror story about a family where dad had three children, two daughters, and a son. During dad’s lifetime, his son passed away, leaving behind a son of his own. We’re going to call this person grandson. Dad lived for another almost 20 years during which period of time this grandson was estranged from the family. When dad died, he died intestate, meaning he died without a will, leaving assets behind.

When I met with one of the sisters who was going to be the personal representative and talked to her about the intestate secession. When you don’t have a will, don’t worry, the law puts one in place for you, it’s probably not what you want and I think this is an excellent example of that. What the law says is it’s going to go to dad’s three children, one-third to the sister, one-third to the other daughter, and then a third to the son but because the son had passed away, his one-third share would go to the grandson, his only living child and descendant.

Well, the sisters weren’t quite so happy about that because the grandson was estranged from the family and had been quite hurtful to dad while dad was living. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter because dad did not put in a will explicitly stating that he wanted things to be split between his daughters and not to this estranged family member. The estranged family member did end up walking away with a third of the estate and he said, and I quote, “That seems like a pretty sweet deal to me.”

Not exactly the word you expect from someone who’s inheriting from a grandparent, but in this case, that’s exactly how it went down, and if dad had done a will, the family probably would’ve walked away feeling a little bit more satisfied and again, easily avoided with proper estate planning tactics. Do not pass away without a will. It’s not the only document you need, but it’s a very important core document.