In reading the article in the New York Daily News…and the comments which followed, a couple of thoughts popped into my mind. First and foremost was the thought of what a tragedy. Although it is always very difficult to lose a loved one, and the manner in which this one occurred can be devastating to family and friends. The article itself was heartbreaking; however some of the comments that followed left me a little speechless, especially as an estate planning and probate attorney. I will say this; no one can ever know what is in someone’s thoughts or heart without being them.
Now to the next thought that popped into my mind, INHERITANCE IS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT. It is unfortunate that we have to remind our clients and their children of this quite often. A lot of times we have clients that come to our office to revise their Wills because they did not leave one child enough money. After meeting with the client it becomes painfully clear this thought was not their own, it came from their son or daughter. I quickly remind the client this is THEIR LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, it is not their son’s or daughter’s. This document should do exactly what the client wants, not what anyone else thinks.
The passing of L’Wren I know is a devastating loss to so many, but she was incredibly responsible for preparing a Last Will and Testament, which distributed her assets exactly as she wanted. Without this Will, in the State of Texas, her assets would have been distributed to her siblings. It was apparent this was not what she wanted. This brings me back to Inheritance is a privilege, not a right. L’Wren worked hard for the property and assets that made up her estate. They were hers to control during her lifetime and was her choice to control their distribution upon her death.
The third thought that popped into my mind was we do not have the full story as it relates to all of the assets of L’Wren. The assets reflected in the article may, or may not be all of the probate assets, but who knows the nonprobate assets. For a detailed discussion of probate assets vs. nonprobate assets, click here.