By Allen Salkin | The New York Times
You would think I would know better.
As an investigative journalist, I once spent months working on a series of articles about what happens to the estates of people who die without wills. It can be ugly. In New York City, politically connected lawyers, judges and contractors can, as our reporting team found, feed on these unguarded estates like leeches on flesh at a nudist camp lake.
In one typical case, my colleagues and I at The New York Post found that a Queens Surrogate’s Court judge had appointed three lawyers connected to the local Democratic Party as “guardians” of potential heirs to the estate of a never-married, childless woman. Ostensibly in search of heirs, they spent part of the deceased woman’s $670,000 estate on a junket to Puerto Rico for themselves, a court employee and their spouses. In the end, the highest-paid lawyer siphoned off $116,025 in fees, while the dead woman’s 14 cousins received inheritances of $33,150 each.
“It’s a common misperception that it’s less important for a single person to have an estate plan versus someone who is married and/or has children. That could not be further from the truth.
“While it varies from state to state, in general intestacy laws give certain rights to spouses and children, however, without either it becomes open season for third parties handling the estate. More often than not, results in the assets you worked to build your entire life are being spent on needless costs and fees rather than distributed to loved ones.
~ Laura Bianchi