Dennis Hopper – words really do matter

It was reported in the New York Post that the discord over Dennis Hopper’s estate plan has already begun.  The crux of the matter is that Mr. Hopper did not want his wife to inherit from him if they were divorced or no longer living together.  Now, that seems reasonable, and in fact, a will is often drafted in a way that a divorce (or legal separation) will disinherit the former spouse.  However, Ms. Duffy (wife) was living on the property, but in a separate house.  So, is this “living together” or not?  Lawyers get a bad name for dragging out seemingly clear things, for being verbose, floundering in legal-ese, and generally seeming to obfuscate the obvious.  However, language defining what we think we already know can sometimes avoid confusion (and hefty legal fees).  When you are reviewing or working on any legal document, it pays to think about the “what ifs” during the drafting stage, and not at the litigation stage.  If your attorney asks you seemingly endless questions (“What if the guardians get divorced –who should care for your children”; “What if Jim isn’t avaliable?”; “What if everyone you’ve named dies before you do?”), be patient, think the questions through, and realize that your attorney really does have your best interest at heart, and is not just deliberately annoying you…

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