One of our guilty pleasures is ABC’s soapy drama Nashville, which follows the trials and tribulations of the country music industry. On the recent episode “I’m Lost Between Right or Wrong”, singer Deacon Clayborne, thanks to a recent (and secret) cancer diagnosis, is grappling with his mortality and his relationships with his ex-lover, their love child, his selfish sister, and his long-suffering niece. In a moment of extreme self-pity, he downloads a will off the internet, signs it, and announces to his niece that he has refused all treatment in order to hasten the inevitable, and that she is in charge of his will, which she can find in the envelope he throws at her.
Oh, the drama!
As we have stated before, many programs take cinematic license with law or legal procedure in the interest of advancing the storyline, and while it is not an accurate picture of civil procedure, it sure does make for entertaining television. But the familial and legal drama that could ensue from trying to probate an unwitnessed, possibly illegal will could fill a CD with sad country songs.
In Connecticut (and many other states), to be valid, a will must be signed in front of two witnesses. In addition, best practices dictate that the will be notarized and both witnesses be non-partisan. Wills that are downloaded off the internet without the benefit of review by a Connecticut attorney could contain provisions that are not applicable in Connecticut, or may fall afoul of Connecticut statute.
To help ensure your wishes are not only memorialized but are done so in a way that they will be carried out, it is best to have your will and related estate planning documents drafted by an attorney versed in trusts, estates and probate law, who will take the time to learn about you, your intentions, and any necessary particulars about your proposed executor and beneficiaries. Your lawyer may be able to flag issues and provide guidance regarding some of your bequests. For example, you may want to leave money to a family member with a disability, but if they are receiving state or federal benefits and a supplemental needs trust isn’t properly set up for them, your generosity could disrupt or even disqualify them for further benefits.
Freed Marcroft’s lawyers are familiar with trusts, estates, and probate and can assist you in ensuring that your documents not only reflect your wishes but also meet probate requirements and are in concert with current Connecticut statutes.