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Will Validity at the Heart of Massachusetts Estate Battle

A house that was recently the site of a deadly fire in Boston apparently has a tumultuous past in the court system. The house is part of the estate of a Back Bay property owner that has been the subject of a legal battle for the past 12 years. The Back Bay man died in 2002 at the age of 85.

The house is currently the legal responsibility of the executor of the estate. The man has been accused of not maintaining the building properly and being an absentee landlord since he lives out of state. Financial records have been produced, however, that show that the executor paid fees to others for property management, maintenance and repair services.

According to reports, the dispute over the estate started in 2002 and revolves around the fact that the man had three separate wills drawn up in the 1990s. The wills are referred to as the 1997, 1998 and 1999 versions. The deceased man’s two daughters are contesting the validity of the 1999 will, which effectively cuts the two women off from the estate and, instead, leaves the man’s assets to his sister. The 1997 version of the will cut out only one of the daughters, and the 1998 version set up a revocable trust. It is the 1999 will that names the man’s sister as the beneficiary of that trust.

While it is important to keep a will up to date with a person’s most current wishes, it is also vital to make clear which version of the will should be used to prevent family disputes. Court procedures contesting the validity of a will are often drawn out, increasing the time that the family has to deal with the intense emotions surrounding a loved one’s death. A clear and well-executed estate plan can reduce the risk of these types of issues.

Source: NECN Business, “Tangled tale of fire building’s owners” Peter Howe, Mar. 27, 2014

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