J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Attorney and CPA

Ambiguous will may cause problems in estate administration

Life is full of unexpected happenings. Like all good and bad things, death is also a part of life. Florida residents should accept this harsh reality and plan in advance. It ensures that a person's estate will be distributed among the relatives and friends, according to the decedent's will.

However, there are times when prolonged legal issues surrounding estate administration occur, delaying the distribution of assets for years. At times, this may be because of the unclear terms of the will or to litigation disputing the will's credibility itself. Associated with this is the problem of unclaimed property. Often, delay or improper administration results in unclaimed property.

Recently, a 54-year-old Wisconsin resident was stunned when he discovered that a close friend had bequeathed $28,000 in his name 10 years earlier. However, because of slow probate of the will, the beneficiary was not aware of the bequest until now. When the funds reached the Office of the State Treasurer, only then was he informed of the bequest.

What further adds to the problem is that, often, people move to places and change their contact numbers, making it difficult to trace the beneficiaries.

The story of this 54-year-old man is not uncommon. According to National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, unclaimed property and cash summing to around $33 billion is owed to Americans. One of the main reasons for this unclaimed property has to do with wills.

It is imperative to draft a will in very clear and unambiguous words. The parts of the will must not contradict each other. Further, the will must be notarized and signed by the person who owns the will in the presence of two witnesses. Probate issues arising from an unclearly worded will may defeat the purpose of writing a will. Thus, the testator must be careful and appoint a trustworthy administrator to minimize the trouble caused to the heirs.

Source: Daily Finance, "Unclaimed Property: Is Missing Money Looking for You?," Ross Kenneth Urken, Jan. 8, 2013

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