With all of the information out there about estate planning, it astounds me how far the misinformation goes. However, there are people who will believe what they want to believe, especially if it means they can be lazy about actually doing something. Recently, a member of my family was discussing their own estate plan and told me and some other family members that all of their furniture was marked with masking tape with people’s names on it, and when they died, that’s who the furniture was supposed to go to. I was speechless for a few moments. I asked if they actually talked to an attorney, and they said they talked to their friend who used to work at a bank, and that person assured them that the masking tape technique would work.
I tried to be patient and explain that the technique would have absolutely no legal effect, and they would be better off with a revocable living trust, or at the very least a Last Will and Testament. They told me they didn’t want to “waste” their money on an attorney. No matter how much I tried to explain that it wouldn’t work, they kept telling me that their friend worked for a bank so they knew things. Apparently my law degree and fifteen years of being an attorney didn’t match up to their friend’s three or so years of experience being a bank teller. Again, they *wanted* to believe their friend because it meant not spending money on an attorney, so they put their legal faith in the Scotch tape company rather than an actual attorney who knows the law.
Thankfully, this is a relative I’m not expecting to inherit anything from. But I do know someday, a few months after this relative passes on, that one of their children will be calling me very upset that their parent’s wishes were not being followed, that one of the other children was taking things that didn’t belong to them, and that I needed to do something about it. At that point, it is too late to make a plan, and the State’s plan will be the only one that can be followed. So while masking tape may be good for a lot of things, it’s not an effective estate plan.