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Lucrative estate on chopping block because of multiple wills

When most Denver residents hear the word "charity" they likely think about a cause to try and cure a disease or protect an endangered animal. However, charities also have a role to play in estate planning. People who have significant assets that they want protected can shield them with a charity. The charity provides tax protection, making their estate more valuable in the end.

That may sound like a sneaky bit of money management; but it's also a mutually beneficial move. The charity acts as a trust, protecting your estate. When the trust runs out, the charity retains any remaining assets of yours. It helps shield your assets, and the charity gets a financial boost.

Now, making such a move takes planning and organization. This isn't something that people without estate law and charity planning experience can execute. You will need to consult an attorney with knowledge in these areas to help you establish such a trust and to ensure you are compliant with all of the rules and regulations regarding charities and estates.

For example, no one would want the following situation to happen to their family: a man who already had a will decided to start a charity and create a second will very late in his life. With his intent and money going towards the charity, the second will was being finalized. Before he got to sign the new will, he died.

It's a sad enough story, but it's made even more complex by the fact that he had a $200 million estate. His family members were the primary beneficiaries of the first (and only official) will. But the charity was a major beneficiary of the second will; and even though it wasn't official, his intent was clear for everyone to see. The family is suing the charity for unjust enrichment as the two sides prepare for a contested will legal battle.

Source: ABA Journal, "Man implements $200M estate plan, but dies before signing will; sons file unjust enrichment suit," Martha Neil, Oct. 21, 2013

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