Warren Burger’s Concise and Faulty Will

Some people assume that judges and lawyers always have a comprehensive estate plan because they know what can happen without an estate plan. Without a will, the intestate laws of your state determine how your property will be divided. Intestate laws determine who will inherit your property. Surely judges and attorneys know better than to leave such an important decision to state law.  Wrong!

Even attorneys and judges can make estate planning mistakes that cost their loved ones time and money. One of the most famous examples is the estate of Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger.

An Example of DIY Estate Planning Gone Wrong

For someone who drafted lengthy court decisions, Chief Justice Burger was extremely brief (far too brief) in his DIY will. Chief Justice Burger drafted and typed his own Last Will and Testament prior to his death. The will was only 176 words in length.

Some people have criticized the will as being “woefully inadequate” for not addressing serious estate matters such as estate taxes. They claimed the “poor estate planning” by the justice cost his heirs hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes. This could have been avoided by using estate planning tools such as trusts and gifts to minimize estate taxes. If only the justice would have consulted an experienced estate planning attorney instead of attempting to prepare his own will. Shouldn’t an educated, experienced U.S. Supreme Court justice know better?

What is Wrong With a Do-It-Yourself Will And Estate Plan?

If you read other opinions of Chief Justice Burger’s choice to type his own will, you get a different view of his DIY will. Some proponents claim his will was sufficient and he did not make a mistake by typing a concise, short will. However, choosing to prepare your own will can backfire on you and on your heirs. In trying to save a little money by using estate forms you find online or by using an online estate planning website, you could unnecessarily place your heirs in a terrible position after your death.

Reasons why you need to consult an experienced Dayton wills attorney include:

  • Do You Understand Ohio Probate Laws? If you do not understand Ohio probate laws and how those laws relate to your estate plan, you need a Dayton wills lawyer to prepare your will. In order for your will to be valid, you will must contain certain elements. If your will does not meet the legal requirements under Ohio’s probate laws, your will can be overturned. If so, your estate will be subject to Ohio’s intestate laws.
  • Do You Understand Laws Regarding Estate Taxes? One of the important elements of a comprehensive estate plan is to avoid federal and state estate taxes. Dayton estate planning attorneys understand how to use various estate planning tools to eliminate or minimize estate taxes for your heirs.
  • Do You Understand Trusts? Trusts are complicated estate planning documents; however, trusts are also valuable tools that can accomplish more goals than a simple will can accomplish. However, some trusts are irrevocable; therefore, you must be careful. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can adequately explain the pros and cons of each type of trust to help you decide what is best for you.

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Our Dayton Wills Attorneys Can Help!

The Dayton estate planning attorneys of Lovett & Lovett can help you draft a will that will stand up against attacks and accomplish your goals and wishes. Contact our office by calling (937) 429-7730 to speak with an experienced probate lawyer.