Adulting: Estate Planning 101

This article is sponsored by The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC

This editorial series, Adulting, is brought to you by The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC and Des Moines Mom. The Law Shop provides 100 percent customized client services for families in central Iowa. All 5 original articles from the Adulting series can be found here.

estate planning with the law shop

They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

Well, it turns out you should actually plan for both! Estate planning may not sound like your idea of fun, but it is necessary to ensure both you and your loved ones are provided for according to your own wishes. The Law Shop is here to offer quality legal counsel to help you author your own destiny.

Here’s a story from The Law Shop about what can happen if you don’t have a properly executed estate plan.

A beloved family member recently passed away. We’ll call him “Uncle Bill.” Uncle Bill was a stand-up guy in his community who spent a lot of time with his family, including his siblings, nieces, and nephews. Bill married his twin flame, who we’ll call “Brandy.” Brandy had two young children from her own prior marriage. Bill and Brandy’s marriage was beautiful but short-lived. Brandy died from cancer when her youngest child, Judy, was in college. Bill never remarried.

After Brandy’s passing, Bill and Judy remained close. They called each other and traveled
together. Judy helped manage Bill’s needs as he aged and she made sure he always had a dog by his side plus access to email and video calls to stay in touch. Bill and Judy had a strong parent/child relationship with one another and everyone knew it.

Bill was never wealthy, but he was a frugal, hard worker all his life. As Bill got older, he
remained close with his daughter Judy and wanted to help ensure her future well-being once his own time on earth was up. With the help of a family friend who typed things up, Bill prepared a will with instructions for the distribution of his assets after death, most of which were to go to Judy. Bill also signed a deed to Judy for his home with no mortgage. Bill then put the signed will and deed in his safety deposit box at the bank.

Less than a year later, Bill passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Bill’s family, including
Judy, gathered together to mourn their loss and celebrate Bill’s life and legacy. The family also retrieved the will and deed from Bill’s safety deposit box and delivered such documents to a local attorney for the execution of Bill’s final wishes.

To everyone’s surprise, the attorney advised that neither Bill’s will nor the deed to Judy were valid. Though clearly written, the documents had not been properly executed or witnessed according to state law. Thus, Bill’s estate would be treated as though he had left no will or deed at all. Further, Bill’s sole heirs under state law were his blood relatives. A step-child such as Judy would not be recognized, meaning Bill’s siblings would inherit everything and they would have to unanimously agree on anything being given to Judy. Unfortunately, as so often happens after the passing of a loved one, the family was not in agreement, leaving a lawsuit amongst family members as the tragic legacy of Bill’s own good intentions.

We’d love to tell you how the story of Bill and Judy ends. We cannot, though, because it’s still in litigation where it will likely remain for at least another year or more and where the final outcome will likely leave everyone in the family unhappy.

The moral of the story is simple – don’t be like Bill. Make sure you have a proper estate plan that you can count on being honored when you’re unable to make decisions for yourself and when your own time on this planet is up. Otherwise, the state will end up deciding what happens to you, your belongings, and even your children if they’re still minors at the time of your death.

The Law Shop can help you turn the page with a proper estate plan. Come check out our story and learn more about how we can help with yours at

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Address :: 413 Grant St. Van Meter, IA

Phone :: 515-996-4045

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On Purpose Legal Network Handle is “AJ Skogerson”


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