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The Imporance of Adequate Planning (and a good forfieture clause)

I am witting this post while sitting in the Chancery Courthouse of Leake County, Mississippi, waiting for my turn before the judge to get an order signed.  The matter in front of mine illustrates the importance of adequate estate planning.  The case involved a lawsuit between the niece of a decedent and the decedent's wife.  The lawsuit involved the transfer of some CD's, approximately $200,000, to the wife prior to the death of the decedent.  At first I thought the case was going to involve transfers by the wife on husband's behalf using the power of attorney, but as the testimony developed, it turned out that the banker, who personally knew the decedent, carried the transfer papers to the hospital where the decedent was a patient.  By all accounts the decednt understood what he was doing and had the legal right and capacity to make the transfers.  Nevertheless, the parties and the court spent a day and a half on testimony trying to prove the decedent did not have capacity, or was unduly influenced, to make the transfer.  The court ultimately ruled in favor of the wife, but at the expense of thousands of dollars to all parties who saw it necessary to try this case in open court.  The lesson to be learned is the imporance of including a good forfieture clause in one's estate plan to make parties think long and hard before bringing such an action.  I suspect that if the will had a clause that disinherited the niece in the event of any such challenge, that this action would never have been brought.  It also shows the importance of being prepared in the event that there may be a challenge to capacity.  It is important when such a challenge is expected to have good witness testimony available, and possibly an expert, to defeat such a challenge am ensure that the wishes of the decedent are carried out. 

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