The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum By Michael Myers Souls without wills suffer

I have been informed, without verification, that there are tens of thousands of souls turning over in their graves because they failed to execute or amend a will prior to their death.

From heaven, or purgatory, or other eternal vantage point, they are able to observe persons they detested while on earth enjoying the fruits of their labor. Those in heaven � now angels � don�t seem to mind. But persons in other eternal locations suffer greatly from having failed to execute a will prior to their death.

They should have taken note that as circumstances change, relationships change, and persons who years earlier might have been suitable recipients of one�s possessions may no longer be worthy of an inheritance. In fact, he or she may be dead and unable to take property.

This week the senior legal helpline received two calls asking how to amend or revoke a will.

�I am 83 and my husband is 86,� said the first caller. �We used a lawyer to execute our wills about 12 years ago. Now we wish to make a couple of changes. Do we need to use a lawyer to make the changes? Can we do it ourselves?�

The second caller said, �My husband died two months ago. It was the second marriage for each of us and in our wills we included both his children and my children. But since his death his children have been real stinkers.

�Can I remove them from my will? And can I do it without going to a lawyer?�

First, engaging a lawyer to draft and oversee the execution of a �simple� will is inexpensive; about the equivalent of a month�s supply of pizza and fast food for a family of four; less than a typical visit to a doctor�s office.

I advised the first caller to amend her will but executing a �codicil� on a separate sheet, setting out the desired changes and making certain its execution follows the same requirements as a the will itself:

It must be in writing. It must be signed. And, it must be witnessed.

I advised the second caller to use legal counsel and execute a newly-drafted will. The intra-family hostility she described places her at risk for a will challenge. Following my advice will increase their chances for resting in eternal peace.

(Pro bono legal information and assistance is available to persons 55 and older at USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895; mmyers@usd.edu).

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