Ambiguity kills otherwise great estate plans and can lead to long, expensive court battles. Don’t try to get tricky or sound “legal” with the language. Just say what you mean in plain language.
Hi. I’m Gary, the owner of DeWitt Law. I’ve helped 1000’s of people here in NW Arkansas protect family, protect themselves, avoid probate, and protect assets for their peace of mind.
I had a client come in that had been named as the executor of her grandfather’s will. The will was almost good, except for the ambiguity. And apparently this will had been drawn up by an attorney.
The distribution was everything to my 5 children in equal shares. Except for “I desire for child 1 and child 2 to get $1,000 each out of the proceeds of the sale of my home, and the remaining proceeds then be divided as stated herein.”
Does that mean that those two children should get $1,000 each total or $1,000 and then 1/5th of the proceeds from the sale of the home after that? Does it mean the house must be sold or may be sold then the money split?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to say exactly what you mean. Like “Sell my house. Give $1,000 to son 1 and son 2. Split the rest, remainder, and residue between my other 3 children.”
You don’t have to sound “legal” or try to use tricky language. Just say what you mean in plain language.
If an attorney has questions as to the meaning of the language, then a Judge may have to make the final decision.
Fortunately in this case, most of the estate will be taken by creditors and the mortgage.
But imagine the case where it was a house worth a lot of money. The ensuing court battle may last for years just for a Judge to decide the ambiguity.
Ambiguity can ruin an otherwise good estate plan. It is important to pick the exact language you want, double check it, triple check, then check again. Its even a good idea to have an assistant read it.
If you want to know more, go to DeWitt.law/ep