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Estate Planning Horror Stories: Lessons Learned

David Grant(Republished from Vegas PBS Source Magazine; October, 2103)

For many, the thought of Halloween conjures up frightful images of haunted attractions, horror films, and gruesome costumes.  While these things might scare small children and pets, most folks would see them as entertaining, amusing, or even trivial.  For those seeking a truly horrifying experience for themselves and their loved ones, there’s nothing entertaining, amusing, or trivial about a poorly planned estate.

As an estate planning and probate attorney I have witnessed some of the most horrifying of events.  I’ve seen accidental disinheritances, excessive taxes paid, costly probate litigation, the collapse of small businesses, the misuse of modest inheritances, and large family fortunes squandered.  Usually, the most disturbing aspect of these terrible situations is that they are unintended, needless, and completely avoidable through careful and proper advance planning.

These distressing experiences can touch any individual or family, whether rich or poor, close or estranged.  Financial burdens can be enormous, and the human costs can cripple important relationships between family and friends.  So here are three simple tips to help avoid an All Hallows’ Eve of the Estate:

  1. Specifically include loved ones.  Many people wrongly assume that their domestic partner, close friends, and even pets will be taken care of by those in charge.  Don’t assume anything.  Be specific.
  2. Consider asset protection.  Much can be done to protect your beneficiaries from disability, lawsuits, failed marriages, addictive behavior, and wasteful spending.
  3. Don’t do it yourself.  Do-it-yourself estate plans can create more problems than they solve. Many well-intentioned people will title assets jointly with a spouse, friend, or child, not understanding the significant legal ramifications. Others will name a “Pay on Death” beneficiary and consider their estate planning complete, while not planning for very real risks and contingencies.


Mr. Grant is an estate planning and asset protection attorney, with offices in both Summerlin and Henderson. He is a member of the Vegas PBS Planned Giving Council and is a partner at the law offices of Grant Morris Dodds.  If you would like to speak with Mr. Grant regarding your estate planning, please call 702-938-2244.