Quiz 52: Wills and Trusts
Balance of Rights: When balancing the interests of those who would claim ownership over property, it is important to put the original owner's interests first. The individual who finds the property may claim it against anyone except the original owner. Found property is broken down to four parts: 1. Abandoned property - owner intends to surrender all rights to property. The first person who takes possession acquires title that is valid, including the prior owner. 2. Lost property - owner intends to part with the property and does not know where it is. The individual who finds the property may claim it against anyone except the original owner. 3. Mislaid property - an owner voluntarily puts property in a particular place for safekeeping, but then does not claim it. The individual who finds the property may claim it against anyone except the original owner. 4. Treasure trove - valuable items intentionally concealed in the distant past by an unknown owner for safekeeping in a secret location. The landowner is awarded title. Hence, the interests of the parties involved are balanced.
Why Revoke the Will: In the case Peterson v. Harrell, 690 S.E.2d 151 (2010) the trial court granted the petition to probate in solemn form. The Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed. Caveators filed a petition to probate alleging the will was not properly executed or had been revoked due to obliterations. If granted, the entire will would be revoked and the estate would be distributed to all eligible beneficiaries. Hence, even the beneficiaries whose names were struck from the will would be eligible for a share in the estate.
a). Valid Will: In order for a will to be valid it must adhere to the following: 1. Must be in writing. 2. Must be signed by the testator. 3. Must be witnessed. The number of witnesses vary by state as well as who qualifies as a witness. The validity of the will depends on the state laws dealing with witness qualifications because one of the witnesses was an interested party. b). Invalid Will Distribution: On the occasion that a will is determined to be invalid, the state intestacy laws take precedence. State laws specify the distribution of an estate in accordance with the intent of the decedent. In general, the spouse and all surviving children share the estate. Since Patricia has predeceased Benjamin, the only surviving heir under intestate state law is Edward. Edward will receive the entire estate with Patricia's children receiving nothing. c). Valid Will Distribution: Since the will has been determined to be valid, the estate shares equally between Patricia and Edward. Edward will receive half of the estate. Under the terms of the will, since Patricia predeceased Benjamin, her two children will share equally in Patricia's fifty percent of the estate under the per stirpes clause.