Dont Go Changing

 

Don’t Go Changing..Billy Joel

Your will without me..

Don’t change your beneficiaries…

M’mmm..

I draft the clauses, I draft the sections, ..

I am the lawyer and your not…

I have started putting a bold stamp on first drafts of the wills and trusts I draft. I sometimes never hear from the client again after mailing out the first effort. I worry they start doing their own work after they see my start on their project.

draft

We have seen such events in our chambers. The mouth runs dry at the sight of such chaos in what once was another lawyers fine product.

Often folks arrive in my office not really knowing what they want to become of their estate when they are gone. One couple had a knock down drag out fight about who got what when they were both gone. I heard too much information about their children; who is “responsible” and who is not. I proposed sending out a draft for them to think about but the argument raged on for about an hour.

Finally they left, I sent what I thought was what they wanted and never heard from them again. Perhaps they are still struggling for control of what happens when they cross out of this plane of existence where the argument between them will finally end, leaving their children to continue the fight.

The E Will; It’s Not that Easy Being Green

The term “Green” has come to mean a consciousness about our impacts on the environment. When applied to law I am afraid “Green” also means naive.

A “Green” person looks for of opportunities to save trees. The latest is to not printing wills on paper, instead create and verify them somehow on-screen.

At least one state, Nevada, has legislated a means to sign a will without ever picking up a pen. Instead electronic signature is allowed. They have something called the Nevada Lockbox for wills and other documents that are not in original form anywhere else.

This is also “Green” in terms of lack of experience with fraud. Forgive my conservative nature but I see this development as a means to encourage self-help inheritance.

Back when the term “software” was new and “hardware” was something you bought on Saturday for home repairs, our firm had a case where a document damaging to our client surfaced during litigation. It was drafted on a computer and an ostensible cursive signature of our client endorsed the same.

Our client swore that was not her handwriting. It wasnt. Instead it belonged to an early version of the Word program but we were too inexperienced to know the difference. We had to call an expert witness to disprove the document.

I wonder if we would have to call that expert now? Probably not, as we are not that “Green”.

If Elvis Had Facebook

If Elvis had Facebook you could friend him. The rest of his friends would receive a notification that you are now Elvis’s friend. You could scroll through his timeline which not all believe ended August 16th 1977. There is some evidence that Facebook has made it such that not everyone’s life ends when the death certificate is issued.

A disturbing trend has emerged where the rest of dead speak to us through Facebook, reminding us of their birthdays. Other social media, LinkedIn for example has advised me my dead client has a new acquaintance. Perhaps they are linked on the other side of the Great Divide. Perhaps on the other side Elvis still curls his lip in a sort of smile when he hears applause, and then says “Thank ya, Thank ya very mush”.

I will inquire of Mr. Zuckerberg what this all means.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

According to our coroner, my client died last year. Yet he still keeps popping up on your service popularly known as “Facebook” referencing new connections and a birthday. Is there something metaphysical about this phenomena? Are you now conducting séance or is there some new dimension to life?

Please advise at your earliest opportunity. Thank ya, thank ya very mush.

Regards,

Mark T. Patterson II Attorney at Law

The Last Minute

Despite my best intentions I found myself at the mall shopping this week before Christmas. I was not alone with the sense of rush to accomplish tasks that could have been done earlier. Predictably it was a stress filled event that makes me question whether Jesus would shop on line or shop at all.

I also wondered about those who make this choice in estate planning; shop on line or come to my office. Often I open a probate where the family comes in with the “will” the dear departed family member left behind only to find it is “holographic” or self created without proper witnessing. These are not admissible in Washington, but they are elsewhere.

Probably all the on line instructions are correct, but are skipped over as the reader scrolls down to the “I agree” button we have all learned we must push to get to the product we want on line. So skipping what law professors call “Wills Acts Formalities” means you died without a will.

Americans prefer to be informal, as if this is a virtue we should all aspire to imitate. An American will tell you anything no matter how personal, and he will dress as if they are going to a beach party when something more formal would be appropriate.

So it is a shock to learn the American law frowns on informality, and thus these “informal” documents are not admitted to probate. This means the informal desires of the decedant have no formality at all, and will never be considered. It’s like going out to eat in Europe and being turned away because you failed to pack a coat and tie. Go ahead and get upset, but there isn’t anything you can do about it. Like the better European resturants, the law has standards. Thats why they call it “Law”.

Realizing they are about to be turned away from the last menu selection they will ever make,  people find themselves calling me from emergency rooms, or are brought in to the office on oxygen, or dont quite make it in at all. I recall one such fellow who had consulted with me about a will but put it off. I finally saw he was on the calendar finally for the following week, but alas, saw his photo in the obituaries Sunday morning.

There really is a too late, and the last minute is often truly, the last minute.