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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ever Wonder What Can Happen When You Don't Update Your Estate Plan?

This is a somewhat odd story because it is extreme. Still, the consequences are not that unusual.

Martin Sowell is a 43 year old Ohio man who tried to kill his adoptive parents when he was 17. He tried to poison his father and then tried to shoot him as he fled (three shots, all missed). However, he successfully pumped three bullets into his mother's back. Somehow, both survived.

One aspect of the story is the fact he received only a year in juvenile hall for attempted murder, and that he was released at 18. But that is a different story, for a different day.

Another aspect is that even though his parents attempted to effectively disinherit him by giving him only $50 of their substantial estate, they also failed to update their wills. As a result of failing to name a contingent heir, Sowell now stands to inherit $500,000 after his last surviving parent, his father, passed away.

As stated in the Coshocton Tribune story:

According to the almost identical wills, both the Sowells named each other as their sole heir, with no mention of secondary heirs after they both died.

"It's a mess, a classic example of what happens when you don't update your will," said John Polito, chief magistrate and administrator in Probate Court. "The way it was written, it was as if they had no wills."

(Hat tip to the Ohio Trust and Estate Blog for this interesting but unfortunate story)

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