Lessons in Loss: Unintended Consequences
One of the most persistent misconceptions about estate planning is that you have to be of a certain vintage, so to speak, in order to benefit from it. It’s time to put that notion to rest. We have written a few times about the need for young people 18 years of age and older to have estate plans. What we haven't done is shared the repercussions that can happen when a young person does not plan. That changes now.
Earlier this year, our firm was contacted to advise on a most heartbreaking situation. A tragedy made even worse due to the unintended consequences of a kid dying without an estate plan. The story goes like this:
Jack and Jill have two sons, Chris and Evan.
As Chris and Evan reach their teenage years, Jack and Jill divorce.
Jill eventually remarries. Jack does not.
Several years later, Jack dies of a heart attack.
Jack's Will leaves everything 50-50 to his two sons, Chris and Evan.
Two years after Jack's death, Evan dies in an accident on New Year's Eve.
Evan was a 24-year-old single guy with no kids.
Like most his age, Evan had no estate plan.
When Evan died, the State decided who would inherit his estate.
Who did the State give it to?
At first blush, it may seem right that Jill should inherit the entirety of her son’s estate given that his father was already deceased. But, you see, that’s the rub. At 24 years of age, most of what Evan had, he had inherited from his father. So, when Evan’s estate was given entirely to Jill, the court basically gave half of Jack’s estate to his ex-wife and her new husband.
Jill knows that’s not what Jack intended.
Chris certainly knows that's not what Jack intended.
Heck, you even know that's not what Jack intended.
The problem is no one knows what Evan intended. Would Evan have wanted his father's money to go to his mother? Would he have rather the money go to his brother? Did he have close friends he wanted to share it with, or was he charitably minded? We don't know because Evan didn’t have a Will to tell us. He allowed the State of North Carolina to fill-in-the-blanks for him.
Death is no respecter of persons. It does not care how much money you have, how many followers you have on social media, how many degrees are hanging on your wall. Nor does it care how old you are. The hard truth is that we’ve been involved in accident and suicide cases that have taken young people between the ages of 18 and 27. We’ve handled too many probate cases where alcoholism, drug addiction, and even cancer ended the lives of young adults in their 20s and 30s. We’ve seen heart attacks steal superhero Dads in their 40s from their families. Estate planning is not just for Boomers! It is for everyone.
Mortality is not something people like to think about. It’s uncomfortable. It’s depressing. We get that. And no one thinks something like this is going to happen to their family…until it does. Our goal is simply to bring awareness to the very real, albeit unintended, consequences that result from a young person’s failure to plan. This is just one family's story.
If you’re ready to take control and make a plan, start by filling out our Estate Planning Worksheet, then contact us to schedule your consultation.
Phone: (919) 678-5761