To John, I leave My Lamborghini. John Who? Today’s video covers the challenges of ambiguities in Wills.
Mr. Smith is on his deathbed and knows the end is near. The nurse, his wife, daughter, and two sons are with him. He asks that two witnesses be present for him to record his last wishes.
When all is ready he begins to speak: “To my son, Bernie, I want you to take the Mayfair houses.” “My daughter Sybil, you take the apartments over in the East End.” “My son, Jamie, I want you to take the offices over in the City Centre.” “Sarah, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings on the east bank of the river.”
The nurse and witnesses are blown away as they did not realize the extent of his real estate holdings, and as Mr. Smith slips away, the nurse says, “Mrs. Smith, your husband must have worked very hard to have accumulated so much property”. To which the wife replied, “The idiot had a paper route.”
While you hopefully found this joke as funny as I did, it does raise a few points that Heirs should know.
First, assuming that a Will is valid (many states only allow Wills that are written and signed), a decedent can only give what he owns. In other words, I can write in my Will that I leave each and every one of you a Lamborghini from my car collection. The only problem with that is what if I have never owned a Lamborghini. The gift is therefore meaningless.
Another issue to consider is a Will that is vague. For instance, someone may leave an Inheritance to “John” but doesn’t specify which of the people with that name he knew gets it. He may have a cousin named John. And a lifelong friend John. Let’s not forget his fraternity brother John.
Get the point?
Or a Will could say that a certain person gets “my car” but then dies owning more than one car. When there are such ambiguities, the parties who will gain or lose depending on the interpretation can agree among themselves on how to resolve it.
If they can’t, they may have to take the matter to court and a judge or jury can decide. Which, of course, can get expensive.