I often clean up other attorneys work after death. I have one right now that is very typical of what I see. Couple in their early 40′s find out the husband has terminal cancer so they immediately seek out an estate planning attorney to protect the wife and young child. The husband’s employer has some list of attorneys available for a discounted fee. Well, you can already see where this is going but read on please.
The attorney does a capable job of putting the documents together. There are certainly things in the trust I would do different but the trust is fine. However, the attorney didn’t even attempt to get any assets into the trust except for the house. Again, let me remind you the husband has TERMINAL CANCER.
The husband has now died and this young widow has hired me to get the assets into the trust as she knows I am an expert at Heggstad petitions. We look for two things before filing a Heggstad: 1) were assets listed on a schedule of assets and 2) was there a general transfer document. In this case the answer is NO to both questions. The attorney didn’t contact the financial institutions and didn’t even list the assets on the schedule of assets.
My client and I agree a written declaration by this attorney acknolweding the deceased’s intent would be valuable in supporting a Heggstad petition. I prepared the document and we emailed the document to the drafting attorney to sign.
This is not a joke what I type next. He set up a trust for a man with terminal cancer and didn’t even try to find the trust. He then has the gall to suggest to the young widow that he will charge her for signing the declaration. Sadly this is why lawyers have a bad name.
Don’t let your family fall victim to this kind of work. Hire an experienced estate planning attorney!