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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Monday, October 30, 2017

A True Horror Story For One North Carolina Family

ABC 13, WLOS, recently featured a heartbreaking story about a family that is going through estate planning hell. The family wants their story told so that what is happening to them doesn’t happen to anyone else. 

Connie Root passed away this June after a short battle with state 4 lung cancer. She was survived by her adult daughters, Michele and Angela, and her husband Chuck. 

Most spouses leave most, if not all, of their assets to their spouse, but that is not what Connie wanted to do. She and Chuck had married relatively recently, and he was not Michele and Angela’s father, so Connie wanted money she had received from an inheritance to go to her daughters instead of Chuck. This is perfectly legal, and Chuck was apparently on board with this plan. But when Connie died, the money that was supposed to go to Michele and Angela went to Chuck. 

It turned out that the accounts the money was in did not have proper payable on death (POD) designations, so all Connie’s assets were swept into her probate-able estate, which went to Chuck under Connie’s will. Chuck got everything and the girls got nothing. 

Luckily for the girls, Chuck says he loves them, and God gave him a conscience, so he trying to make things right. But it is taking a lot of time and energy to probate Connie’s estate and get all the financial paperwork needed to transfer assets to Michele and Angela in order. And Chuck doesn’t really have any time or energy to spare. He too has been diagnosed with state 4 cancer, and he isn’t sure how much time he has left. 

The lesson here is to check, double check, and update your estate plan. Mistakes happen, and not everyone who comes into an inheritance that was really intended for someone else is a kindhearted as Chuck. Some people would take the money and run, and few people who are as ill as Chuck would want to spend all their spare time at the courthouse with a bunch of accountants and lawyers.  

Even if you think you have your estate plan set up the way you want it. It doesn’t hurt to have it reviewed and updated as needed every few years. 

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