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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: When I’m dead, I won’t care what happens

May 21, 2008

Two weeks ago, I wrote that anyone who had a legal question could write in and that I would consider addressing the issue. I have received a letter that I think is fairly common, but disheartening. Here it is:
Dear Ed:
I am hoping that you might address the topic of people who do not believe a will is necessary. My father is 85 years old this year, has a sizable estate with many family antiques and heirlooms in his possession. I have encouraged him to see a lawyer about his will, but he simply will not go. When I raise the subject, he says things to me like, “When I’m dead, I won’t care what happens.” He does not seem to recognize or perhaps care that I will be left behind to deal with the legal ramifications.

I love my father dearly; I am his only child and the mother of his grandchildren and it hurts me to think that he does not care enough about us to make his wishes known. I have even told him that he should give his estate to charity if he wishes, but that I would like him to make his last wishes known so that I can carry them out without probate or a contested will from his siblings. His reluctance is not about cost of the will and I have made it clear that I am not asking for his money.

I am deeply saddened by the situation and would like my father to know how the system works when an individual dies without a will or becomes sick and is suddenly unable to state their medical or estate wishes?
Signed, Fryeburg daughter.

Fryeburg daughter: This is an all-to-common situation. Many people do not want to make wills for a variety of reasons. They are afraid to because they think that if they make a will, they are sure to die shortly thereafter. They recognize that it is important, but keep putting it off. Or, like your father, they say that they do not care what happens after they die. All are bad reasons. In fact, there is no good reason not to make a will.

Writing a will (as well as other estate planning documents) would enable your father to make his wishes known, and can avoid a lot of heartache for the people who love him the most. Without estate planning documents, state law may determine who gets your father’s money and property. Relatives may have disputes over what your father’s intentions were. In your particular situation, assuming your father does not have any other children who predeceased him leaving children, you are the sole beneficiary of your father’s estate. But even with that relatively simple situation, estate planning would avoid any and all disputes as to his wishes (especially regarding the antiques and heirlooms).

Estate planning documents also extend to health care decisions in the event that your father is unable to make decisions for himself. A guardianship may be necessary if your father becomes incapacitated and he has not signed powers of attorney for health care and finances. (Remember the Terri Schiavo case? Estate planning documents would have avoided all of the heartache, expense, and legal wrangling involved in that case.)

While it is true that your father may not “care what happens” after he dies, having an estate plan is an important way that your father can show his loved ones how much they mean to him today.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay