From time to time, the following, unfortunate situation occurs. Recently, a potential client contacted me as she was the Immediate Emergency Contact (ICE) for a good friend of hers who died. He was 84 years old and had expired approximately one week prior in his apartment before being discovered. My client had known the individual for 25 years. Unfortunately, the decedent left no will, living will or power of attorney. He had neither children nor next of kin. His only contact was my client who was beside herself upon learning of his death.
When she arrived at the apartment, the police were there and determined that the decedent had approximately $17,000 in a checking account with a local bank. My client was given the keys to his apartment. Upon reviewing the decedent’s phonebook, she discovered that there was a note by the decedent indicating his wishes to be cremated. Unfortunately, for my client, since she was a stranger to the estate, she had absolutely no recourse as to the deposition of the body, the decedent’s possessions, or his assets. As a matter of fact, the decedent would have be buried in a potter’s field. The assets in his checking account will eventually escheat to the State of New Jersey.
The moral of the story: it is advisable to obtain experienced estate planning counsel in order to protect one’s estate. The trilogy of documents in the form of a living will and power of attorney should always be executed and reviewed periodically to assure proper distribution of the Estate’s assets in accordance with the decedent’s wishes. Succinctly stated, “Verbum Sap Sat!”