Good Life

Money Matters | Keep original will safe, respected

Question: Why do you give your clients only one original will after they sign it and not two? Would it not be safer to have two original wills in case one is lost?

Answer: The answer is yes, it would be safer. But if only one original will exists, and if it is destroyed by the creator of the will, then it is a known fact that the terms of the will are to be terminated. If two original wills exist and only one of them is terminated by the creator of the will, then an original still exists. Thus, if one original will were destroyed and one original will still exists, what is the intent of the creator of the will? Did she mean to change her mind or not?

Be sure the original will you have is placed in a safe location. Safe means in a safety deposit box or in a fire-proof safe at home. The last thing that is desired after a person dies is to find that the will is missing.

Question: Dad died and gave Mom a life estate in the house, which she could continue to live in until she died or remarried. She finally died while living in the home. Mom was receiving public assistance, and the Department of Public Welfare is making a claim for the proceeds of the sale of the home. Does DPW have a right to the proceeds from the sale of the home?

Answer: The answer is no. When Dad died, he gave Mom a life estate interest in the home, which interest was extinguished upon her death. Thus, Mom had no probate estate interest in the land, because she never owned it. She could not convey an interest in the house to another person. She only had a right to live in it during her lifetime.

DPW may make claims only against probate property of Mom’s, and because she apparently had none, there is nothing to make a claim against. The claim can’t be against Dad because he is dead, he died before Mom and all he gave Mom was a life estate.

Question: After my mother died and we probated the will, the lawyer told us that we would have to have an appraisal performed of mom’s personal property. Personal property are those items that are not land or the house. Why do we need an appraisal?

Answer: The appraisal is being done to provide the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania an accurate statement of the value of the personal property at the time of the decedent’s death. The appraisal is normally given to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when the Pennsylvania inheritance tax return is filed. The appraisal provides proof of the value of the items in the home or that were owned by your mother. Very often, there is substantial value in jewelry, guns and art work in a home.

Another reason for doing an appraisal is to place a value on items of personal property so that the children of the decedent may use the appraisal provided by a neutral party to assist in the division of the personal property assets. Thus, one child will know that if they receive a diamond ring and it has a value of $5,000, then another child should receive a like value of items in the distribution of the estate.