Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

Did he really just get the lorry?

junkyardAlthough this actually happened in the UK, it could just as easily have happened here.

Fred McGuinness owned a scrap yard.  When he died at age 64 in 1987, he left everything to his wife Edith.

He had four children: David, Freddie, Kevin and Denise.  David claimed that he and his brothers had been promised shares of the business to pay them back for all the years they spent working in the family business.

When Edith died at age 87 in 2013, David fully expected that their time had come to get their reward.  However, Edith left everything she had, including the yard, to Denise.  The only other bequest was a small one to charity.  In a letter Edith wrote to accompany her will, she said that she and Denise had been excluded from the business and “mistreated”.

Although Denise owned a quarter of the business, her bookkeeping role had been eliminated, she never got a bonus and her pension was a “pittance”.

Edith also wrote that “since Mr. McGuinness passed away, she had watched his once-thriving business ‘go to nothing from greed’.”

Edith’s estate was valued for probate at more than £3million after tax and the court heard that a £12million offer had been received for the yard.

Although David had “taken it for granted” that he would inherit part of the yard, the probate judge disagreed.  He said there was never “a cast iron promise” that the yard would be divided among all of the children.

The judge further ruled that the only thing David would inherit was a classic Morris lorry, valued at about £10,000.

You can’t assume that what’s been casually mentioned as what you’ll inherit will stand up in court.  If you feel that something should rightly be yours, be sure to discuss it with your parents while they are still alive and get their commitment put into a legal document.  Otherwise, you may find yourself – like David – without the inheritance you had been expecting…and experiencing friction with any other heirs.

Everyone should have a will that outlines what they wish to happen to their assets when they die and clearly spells out the terms.  If you have assets, don’t delay.  Get a will written today.  You can either find a “do it yourself” version on the web or, if your estate is larger or more complicated, find an estate attorney who will prepare one for you.

For more information about estate planning and will writing, go to our website,

Many states join the UFADAA bandwagon

ULCLogoEarlier this year, we wrote about the first state to adopt the new, revised UFADAA (Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act) recommended statute.  This statute makes clearer the ways which an estate executor and others can deal with your digital assets when you die.

Indiana, this week, joined the ranks of states that have decided to pass a “law that addresses the rights of a fiduciary, such as a personal representative, trustee, attorney-in-fact or guardian, to access digital property, such as online financial accounts, emails, texts, social media accounts and online document and picture storage.”

Since digital assets are a large part of many people’s estates, this new act has become more important.  States are recognizing this and, as of this date, many have either adopted the act or are in the process of considering it.

For information about whether your state has adopted this important act yet, click here.

For more information about digital estate planning, check out our book “Access Denied: Why Passwords Are Now As Important As Your Will” or go to our website

Have you made a plan?

Screen-shot-2012-05-21-at-9_49_06-AMEnd of life planning is something most people don’t want to think about.  They say that they still have time since they don’t plan to die for many years.  However, this may not be true.  We can’t predict when we’re going to come to the end of our life.  We found two TED talks that are very thought provoking and may get you started on planning what you want to happen at the end.

The first talk “What really matters at the end of life” is by Dr. B.J. Miller.  “At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? For many, it’s simply comfort, respect, love. BJ Miller is a palliative care physician at Zen Hospice Project who thinks deeply about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients. Take the time to savor this moving talk, which asks big questions about how we think on death and honor life.”

The second is “Let’s talk about dying” by Dr. Peter Saul.  “We can’t control if we’ll die, but we can “occupy death,” in the words of Peter Saul, an emergency doctor. He asks us to think about the end of our lives — and to question the modern model of slow, intubated death in hospital. Two big questions can help you start this tough conversation.”

For more information on end of life planning, check out our website

If the will is fake, what happens next?

Fake willIn August 2013, Lynn Day Arsenault was shot to death by a man she didn’t know.  A few months later, her surviving spouse and fourth husband, Donald Arsenault, showed up with a supposed will that left him all of her assets and left nothing to her three adult sons.

Her sons doubted that this could actually be her last will and testament.  After all, she had been very generous, caring and helpful to them thorough out their lives.

After a two-day trial which included testimony by a handwriting expert, the Waldo County Probate Judge found that the document presented by Arsenault was fraudulent and the signature forged.  She therefore decreed that Lynn Day Arsenault had died intestate and that her sons are her true heirs.

The spouse had already sold a house she owned without court approval and the location of her other assets has not yet been determined.  Whatever they are, the spouse will receive nothing.

Whether he will be prosecuted for attempting to pass off a fake will as real is still up in the air.

More than 50% of people in the United States die with no will and, in actuality, Lynn Day Arsenault was one of them.

Don’t leave your estate in a mess; be sure that you have a legally executed will and if you think there may be disputes between a spouse and children from another marriage, tell your legal representative where that will is located.  That way, there will be no dispute when you die and no question of whether your will is real or not.

For more information about end of life planning and will preparation, go to our website

Seen a digital assets & legacy infographic?

51j2ST20YwL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_We came across a very easy to read and understand infographic.  It provides important information about estate and digital asset planning.  Although the data is based on a survey done in the United Kingdom, the figures are probably very similar to what would be found if the same survey were done in the United States.

In light of the digital all-encompassing digital world in which we live, it’s especially amazing that almost 75% of people believe that it’s important to be able to view a loved one’s social media presence after their death.  Yet less than 5% of those people have used the Facebook and Google tools available to enable this to happen.

Less than 10% of people have made any plans for their social media accounts to remain active after they die and only 3% have made any plans for purchased digital assets.

Only about half of the people queried have shared with anyone the password for their mobile phone or computer.

Digital planning is a critical part of putting your estate plan in place prior to your death.  Otherwise, your wishes may not be carried out and, even more importantly, your heirs may not be able to access your online assets.  Since no one knows when he or she is going to die, it’s important for everyone to take the necessary steps and put together a legal estate plan now.

For more information about digital estate planning, go to or purchase our book ACCESS DENIED: Why your passwords are now just as important as your will.