ESTATE PLANNING: “This Isn’t What My Stepfather Would Have Wanted”

With the growth of blended families, having an estate plan in place becomes even more important. On February 7, 2019, The Boston Globe published an article entitled “A patriarch leaves no will and the home he meant for his Cambridge family may be lost,” which illustrates in heartbreaking detail what happens when we don’t have the right plan in place.

Mr. and Mrs. Aimes lived with their extended family in a home they had cared for and loved for more than 40 years. Mr. Aimes did not have any children, Mrs. Aimes did. Neither had a valid will and unfortunately, Mrs. Aimes passed away first. Mr. Aimes’ stepchildren and step-grandchildren have no rights to the home…distant Barbadian relatives of Mr. Aimes are now the owners of this multi-generational family home.

As they say in “Us Weekly” celebrities are just you like and me. Aretha Franklin, Prince, James Gandolfini, among others, died without leaving a will. The same concerns were heard “that’s not what he/she would have wanted.” What keeps us from documenting our wishes so that what we want to happen, does?

There are a number of reasons why we don’t get our wishes documented in wills, health care proxies, living wills, trusts, and other documents. Sadly, not getting these documents in place can lead to emotionally devasting and financially complicated ends that make the incapacity, or loss of a loved one even more devastating.

Legally, with respect to the home, Mrs. Aimes’ children are “essentially a stranger to Mr. Aimes,” even though some have cared for him for years. Intestate laws (the plan you end up with courtesy of the state if no other plan is in existence) looks at blood relatives, not the family we live with, love and work with day-to-day. We all have some idea of what we want to happen to our property and whom we want to take care of. These wishes can only be fulfilled with the appropriate planning in place.