The “dog ate my homework” excuse is one school teachers might expect to hear, but it’s not something probate court judges are used to hearing. But, a filing with a Texas judge alleged that a deceased woman’s original Will was lunch for a naughty golden doodle – the dog of the estate planning attorney who prepared the document!
The court filing, made by one of the deceased woman’s daughters, sets up a fight in court over the woman’s estate. That’s because the Will that was allegedly destroyed by the lawyer’s dog was written in 2009. However, in 2003, the deceased woman created a Will that left her estate to her husband, who is not the father of her surviving children. His family is claiming that the 2003 Will is the only valid Will, since the deceased woman’s daughters were not able to produce the later document.
Copies of Wills can be used and relied upon in probate court under certain circumstances, so it is a little unclear from available facts why the family is asserting the “dog ate my Will” excuse for not being able to produce the original. Unfortunately, this dispute over an estate estimated to be worth $50,000 has already been dragging on in court since the woman’s death in 2014 and it has not yet been resolved.
As a good rule of thumb, keep your Will and other estate planning documents in a safe place, and make sure your named personal representative (executor) and/or trustee know where they can find the documents. It is also a good idea to give copies of your documents to the people you name in these key roles and to heirs, if you are comfortable doing so. Remember that, as you update your documents over time, you should notify anyone with copies about the updates.
If you need to prepare or update your estate planning documents, contact us at The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center today!