Having a proper will in place can be essential in making sure that a person's wishes are carried out after he or she has passed away. Even if the assets that are to be distributed are relatively insignificant, it can become a serious weight for others to carry when they must try and figure out what to do finances, debts or properties if a person has not left a will.
This was the case recently for one woman who passed away without any leaving any documentation about what to do with her $1.5 million estate. The story started out across the world in Ireland but ended up right here in Massachusetts.
According to reports, the Irish woman passed away after her husband had died. The two had no children and she had no siblings who would have inherited the estate under Irish law. It took the dedication and hard work of three genealogists and a documentary crew to eventually track down the woman's maternal and paternal cousins would were entitled to portions of the woman's estate.
All told, 17 beneficiaries were identified and notified. Each of the cousins was told they would receive $36,000 from the estate of a woman they had never known. In fact, the cousins themselves had never met each other even though some of them lived just a few miles away from one another.
Luckily, this story has a happy ending. However, the significant efforts and resources that were utilized in this particular situation are generally not available for every person who passes away without a will. Without this documentation in place, others will have to take on the extra work of figuring out what to do with a person's estate. Rather than leave an estate up for the interpretation of others, people can work with an attorney to clearly and specifically document their wishes.
Source: The Boston Globe, "Residents find family and fortune," Katheleen Conti, March 14, 2013