We rely on Taylor Swift for fun, upbeat music, entertainment via the tabloids, and perhaps a few lessons on dating in the twenty-first century. But can we rely on her for estate planning advice? Probably not so much. Here are the takeaways from her new song and music video, Anti-Hero, which portrays a fictional future in which the singer’s daughter-in-law kills her for the inheritance, only for the entire family to discover that she left almost the entire estate to her three cats.
No, you can’t leave your estate to a pet, but there is a fairly straightforward workaround.
To inherit an estate, you must be human (or at least a trust organized and managed by humans). So animals can’t technically inherit property or assets. However, Ms Swift can establish a trust, place assets in the trust, and then leave instructions for the trust to be used for the sole benefit of her furry friends.
Wills can be contested, and Taylor’s fictional document probably would be.
While you can certainly draft and sign a will in your own handwriting, as Taylor did in the video, it isn’t the best idea. Handwritten wills can be contested in court, and those who contest it (in this case, her sons) stand a fair chance of winning their case. It’s usually better to draft a will with an attorney, sign it, and have two witnesses present to verify your signature.
However, the only people who can contest a will are those who would inherit under the state’s intestacy laws. Taylor’s sons or even grandchildren could contest the will, but the daughter-in-law could not.
Murderers can’t inherit from their victims.
Even if Taylor’s prospective daughter-in-law someday kills her, the law won’t allow a murderer to inherit from their victim. She would be automatically barred from receiving any inheritance named in the will. However, that wouldn’t stop Taylor’s son (the murderer’s husband) from inheriting. But…
In-laws don’t automatically benefit from an inheritance.
Just because your husband or wife inherits money or property, that doesn’t make it yours. However, the minute those assets are placed within a joint account (such as inheritance money transferred into a savings account), they do become joint marital property which will be passed to them if their spouse dies or divided if they divorce.
So if you want to leave your conniving in-laws out of your will, set up a trust with explicitly named beneficiaries instead.
If you want to disinherit someone, do it right.
Simply leaving someone out of a will can create an opportunity for legal challenge because they can claim the oversight was a mistake. Instead, spell out your intentions clearly and mention them by name with language such as, “I intentionally and purposefully make no provision for [disinherited person].” This way, the individual’s chances of successfully contesting the will are slim to none.
A proper estate plan is essential to ensuring that your wishes are followed and to prevent family squabbles and legal troubles.
If there’s one thing Taylor Swift can accurately portray, it’s drama. The chaos resulting from the reading of her will, as shown in the video for Anti-Hero, isn’t far off the mark! Families can and do experience legal difficulties and intense disagreements when wills are unclear or non-existent.
To prevent this type of strife for your own loved ones, as well as ensure your final wishes are followed, draft reliable estate plan documents. Call us at Shoup Legal, and one of our experienced legal professionals will answer your questions and help you put together a solid plan for the future.