Do It Yourself Estate Plan Goes Very Wrong

All you can give away is what you own.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it?  Turns out, at the end of life,  things are rarely what they seem.

The recent passing of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys sheds light on why DIY estate planning is a huge risk.  A last-minute, handwritten addition to his will may not be lawfully legit and could cause years of legal headaches for his heirs if they pursue his request.

Forbes recently analyzed the Last Will of Mr. Yauch in an article titled “Part Of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Will, Banning Use Of Music In Ads, May Not Be Valid.” It seems one of his last decisions and a last act of defiance was to make pen-and-ink revisions within a common legal provision. Unfortunately for Mr. Yauch, the language he chose and the addition itself did not work.

So, what went wrong?

The Last Will already specified that Mr. Yauch’s image and name aren’t to be used for any advertising purposes, but then he penciled in “or any music or any artistic property created by me.” Unfortunately the music of the Beastie Boys doesn’t belong to Yauch in the same way his image does, it also belongs to the other Beastie Boys. Bottom line: Mr. Yauch injected a provision related to copyrights into a statement about publicity rights.

In the end, making pen-and-ink changes should be left to the professionals if you want to ensure your wishes can be carried out.

As I explained last week, I had an ugly example of Last Will and Testament, prepared by a layman with the ‘help’ of an on-line download.  The intention was to exercise a limited power of appointment granted him by his mother’s estate plan.  Unfortunately, just as with Adam Yauch, there is a right way and a wrong way to write such a provision and the wrong way was chosen and the Executor will not be allowed to recognize this provision of the Will. 

In my opinion, one should never try to utilize “docs in a box” for estate planning; I been asked to mop up behind these documents too often to believe they work even in the best of circumstances. You such know that if the intention of these DYI documents is to save money, more than likely, you've made an expensive mistake which your loved ones will end up paying for.

You can learn more about estate planning and elder law issues on our website. Be sure to sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter to stay abreast of issues like these that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.  

ReferenceForbes (August 13, 2012) “Part Of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Will, Banning Use Of Music In Ads, May Not Be Valid

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