General Question

chyna's avatar

Why even bother with a will if it can be contested and your wishes won't be carried out, especially concerning who to leave your childeren to?

Asked by chyna (41805points) July 7th, 2009

This came to my attention during the whole Michael Jackson will reading, and his wishes will be contested. What is the point in having a will drawn up?

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26 Answers

cak's avatar

It’s rare that wills are seriously contested and when they are, it usually is because the will is outdated.

What is the point? Because it tells the court (in case it is being contested) what your wishes truly were. If there is no will, the State can step in and make those decisions for you.

Where I live, if I don’t have a guardian appointed for my children, the State puts them into the system and let’s the family appeal. I would never want that for my children.

In addition to having a will, discuss you wishes with your family, it’s important that things are discussed!

Jeruba's avatar

Our financial advisor said “If you aren’t clear about leaving it to your kids, you’re going to be leaving it to Arnold Schwartzenegger.” In other words, if you die intestate, it’s going to end up in the hands of the state and not the people you think should inherit.

jrpowell's avatar

They work 99% of the time. I think there is a saying about “Baby and bathwater.”

edit :: grammar

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Money buys a lot of lawyers and the Jacksons have money. This doesn’t happen in most cases. A will is a legal document though and lawyers are all up in debating legal documents.

cak's avatar

When I first read the question, I thought you had typed wii, not will. Does that mean it’s time for bed?!?

Darwin's avatar

Generally wills work just fine and make life much easier for those left behind. However, when dealing with huge amounts of money as well as with greedy people all sorts of bad things can happen.

chyna's avatar

@cak Yes, and I think I misspelled children, so it is really time for me to go to bed.

Blondesjon's avatar

@johnpowell . . .Coincidentally, Babies and Bathwater was one of Michael’s favorite energy drinks.

cak's avatar

@chyna – wow…I didn’t even see that one! It’s okay. I’ve had so many dumb moments this evening, you are a Mensa Member, compared to me!

chyna's avatar

I am leaving Molly, the wonderdog, to friends of mine if I should die. I hope there is no fight over her. :)

fireinthepriory's avatar

Wills can be contested if someone (usually a relative) think they know better than their dearly departed. For example, I know if my mother had died before myself and my siblings were over 18, my aunt would have contested in court to have custody of us even though my mother had it in her will that we should go to her best friend. You can take a will to court any time you want to – it’s harder to win such a case when you’re contesting that your mom left all her money to whatever and not you. However when the welfare of children comes into it, it’s easier to contest a will and win – the court is more likely to allow you to go against a will if it seems like its in the best interest of a child who is still living, and therefore more important than so-and-so’s wishes (being that they’re all dead now).

dalepetrie's avatar

You know, when the mother of your first two children is white, you’re black, and BOTH kids are white, and the mother says the two of you never had sex and she was artificially inseminated, and your third child was born by an unknown mother and just seemed to appear out of thin air one day, and is ALSO white, and you give custody of these children to your 80 year old mother, and as a backup you name a 65 year old woman who isn’t even related to you, who was last in the news for driving drunk and getting beligerent with the arresting officer, landing her in jail for a couple days…yeah, someone’s probably going to contest that.

Darwin's avatar

Especially if the children are heirs to money so there is a chance that some it it may come your way, either directly or by influencing the children.

Zaku's avatar

@dalepetrie – LOL, but what’s a person to do if that’s what they really want? ;-)

YARNLADY's avatar

Contesting a will, and winning are two different things. Most wills are uphold by the judge, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Jack_Haas's avatar

MJ was a long-time drug abuser whose mental condition was constantly questioned. He surrounded himself with the most despicable vultures money could attract and the whole world could witness how low some of them stooped to take advantage of him. The sad truth is, no one knows if this guy has been lucid for even a day since the end of the 80s. That his will could be contested is hardly surprising.

What shocked me, on the other hand, is a NY judge’s decision to amend the will dictated by a 100% lucid and sane Leona Helmsley on the grounds that he didn’t think an individual should be allowed to give millions of dollars to a dog.

But he did not just disregard the quintessentially American principle that an individual should be free to dispose of his property as he sees fit. To add insult to injury, he reallocated most of the dog’s money to the two grandsons who had specifically been left out of the will, thereby effectively applying a bit of the Napoleonic code. It’s a scary precedent.

casheroo's avatar

@cak Wow, how do you find out what your state laws are regarding what happens to your children? Can I just write it out, or does it need to be a legal document. That’s scary that they go into the system!

dalepetrie's avatar

@Jack_Haas – curious where you get your information that MJ was a long-time drug abuser? My understanding from multiple accounts was that he did not believe in using drugs, being a Jehovah’s Witness, but that he began about 6 months ago, doctor shopping to try to get his hands on Diprivan, which he considered more of a medicine. Diprivan is a powerful sedative that makes you go to sleep, and apparently he could not sleep. The problem with Diprivan which makes it something that is RARELY found in a private residence (though it was found in Jackson’s) is that the lethal does is not much larger than the effective dose. I have yet to read anything alleging what you’re saying, that he’s not been lucid since the end of the 80s. I’m not a Jackson defender by any means, but if you have a source, please post it so I know you’re not spreading rumors. Thank you.

Darwin's avatar

@casheroo – If you think there is a possibility that someone might over-ride your wishes as to guardianship of your children, then include your preferences in your will. Also, then have your will recorded at the county courthouse so no one can accidentally “destroy” it and then claim there wasn’t one.

Typically, your kids would go to the family member most deemed capable of raising them by the courts, but that might not be your perception. It would make things much simpler if you and your husband agree on potential guardians, get their agreement to be guardians, and then get the rest of your families to agree on that choice before anything should ever be necessary.

Since most of us have wills that say where our stuff is going, it would be really smart to also have a will to say where your most important stuff is going, your children.

casheroo's avatar

@Darwin Okay. We don’t have a will since we have absolutely nothing to leave to people, other than I guess pictures and various other belongings, nothing worth an extrodinary amount. Our son is our main concern. We still can’t pick a person, so that’s why we never have :( It’s so much harder than it seems.

dalepetrie's avatar

@casheroo – same boat here. My wife and I don’t have anything worth leaving behind and we pretty much would assume my son gets it anyway, since he’s the closest blood relative to both of us. As for who my son would go to, that’s a tough call. My wife’s parents are both dead, and my parents are getting up in years and I really don’t feel he’d be all that safe with them, we’ve got a couple friends who might do a good job, but everyone comes with some reservations for one, the other or both of us. Right now we just plan on at least one of us living for at least 10 years and 2 months more so that he’ll be 18.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@dalepetrie @casheroo My mother asked my opinion about it, being that I was the oldest kid and I’d likely be the one dealing with it if anything happened. Two of us are now over 18 so I think we’d have quite a bit of sway if something were to happen and the younger 4 needed a place to go… Or I hope we would! I know what my mom’s will says, which I think is key. Once your kids are old enough (Maybe high school age…?), I think it’s good to tell them. Granted I did freak out when she asked me my opinion, but I was 19 and in college and… well. My father actually did die, back when I was 11, so parental death is a sensitive subject! :) But now I think it’s good that I’ve gotten the chance to talk to my mom about it.

Darwin's avatar

@casheroo – You may have more than you think when it comes to stuff. Do you own a car? What about a television (some of those big screen TVs are worth a fair amount)? Furniture? Computer? Jewelry of any sort, including wedding rings? Life insurance? College savings plan for the kids? Pension or 401k money through work? It adds up in quite a hurry.

In addition, depending on your state, if you die without a will who gets your stuff, including your minor children, is decided upon by law. In Texas it is done this way, which can be a rude awakening if someone happens to be a second spouse of a person who was divorced previously or who has children by someone else. All of a sudden you end up sharing ownership of your house with someone to whom your spouse couldn’t stay married, possibly for good reason.

And just because you haven’t been able to pick a guardian doesn’t mean your children will never need one. It is better to pick someone who isn’t perfect than to have no one picked at all. In that case your kids could even end up in foster care.

On top of that, what happens if you end up somehow on life support? Will you set some guidelines for family to follow about pulling the plug? Or will you force then to try to figure out what you might want?

It is much better to have a will and never need it, than not have a will and it becomes necessary. Having a will is really about being an adult and choosing to do the hard work of deciding what should happen if you aren’t around any more. Not having a will means you are bent on making someone else make all those decisions for you.

casheroo's avatar

@Darwin Well, we have hardly any of those things, so I guess that’s not saying much, I know we need to decide on a guardian. My husband and I have talked about it, we both feel our parents aren’t good options but it will probably end up being my parents. My husband knows my wishes when it comes to life support, I’m glad I’m married because my mother has completely different views on life support and I wouldn’t want her making the decisions (she is very against life support, she wouldn’t even give me a chance at recovery…which I would want in certain circumstances.)

Zaku's avatar

Hmm, so I guess that the wise person who wants to give their estate and custody of their dependents to their pets, should do that properly before they die. ;-)

Darwin's avatar

@casheroo – Your husband may know your wishes, but he can’t prove that they are your wishes, unless you put it in a will or a living will or an end of life directive.

And what happens if something happens to both of you, such as a car crash when both of you are in the car? Your mother would undoubtedly get involved then.

Get it written down and recorded so there are no questions.

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