You have probably heard this one before either in a book, television show or movie. Just when the main character is at his or her most desperate need for money, they receive notice from an attorney that a relative the character has never heard of before has left a large inheritance for the character. In fiction, the benefactor is normally a long lost uncle, but other distant relations have been used. While it is not something you should count on happening in real life to you, there is a truth behind the storyline.
Consider the case of John Floyd as reported by Hemel Today in an article titled "Heir Hunt in Hemel!"
Floyd passed away at the age of 75 with a small fortune. The problem was that he was an intensely private man. He was an only child whose parents had passed away. No will was found. No one had any idea if he had any living relatives, let alone where any could be found. If relatives could not be found, then Floyd's estate would go to the government.
A local lawyer, however, decided to conduct a search for Floyd's relatives. After three years, the lawyer found 39 living relatives in the UK, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere in Europe. These relatives will each receive a portion of Floyd's estate.
If there is a disturbing part of this story, it is that most of the relatives who will inherit Floyd's assets never knew him. It is a real life long lost uncle story. Floyd might have preferred that his wealth went to people he knew, but because he did not have an estate plan that did not happen.
The lesson learned is to engage an experienced estate planning attorney who is required by law to keep your confidences and secrets. Consequently, you may maintain your privacy and have an estate plan designed to meet your specific wishes.
Whenever someone says they don't have an estate plan I remind them that isn't true. Idaho has one for you as a default. If you want the state to determine what happens to your estate when you die all you have to do is - nothing. So it's really a question of which estate plan you prefer, the one you and your family draw up through thoughtful and open discussion or the one Idaho created? Everyone has an estate and everyone needs to plan.