Why You Should Not Draft Your Own Will

A recent case ruling from Massachusetts shows why you should not attempt to do your own estate planning documents:

Decedent bequeathed one-fifth of the family home and “the right to remain there for as long as she desires” to his friend and recent bride, the petitioner, Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin. He also bequeathed one-fifth of the family home to each of his four children by an earlier marriage to Anne Tcherepnin.

The children contend that he bequeathed all five devisees a present possessory interest in the property. The petitioner contends that he bequeathed her a life estate in the property, with the right to exclusive possession, and a one-fifth remainder interest along with each of the four children. The court said: “Taking into account the instrument as a whole and all the circumstances known to the testator at the time he executed the will, we conclude that the testator devised a one-fifth present possessory interest in the property to the petitioner and each of his four children, making them tenants in common.

This means that Decedent’s new wife and his four children from a prior marriage now all get to fight over who stays there when… This does not make for pleasant dinner conversation

Confusing? Its really very simple: Don’t draft your own estate planning documents people! Call a professional, please!

You can read the full text of the Massachusetts opinion here.

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