A “Simple Will” Gone Bad

I represented a gentleman named as the personal representative in his aunt's will. It was his understanding of my client and his family that this was a "Simple Will." While the Will was very basic, he soon found out that there was nothing "Simple" about it. I did not know the aunt and I had not prepared her estate plan.


The Will left property and money to only three beneficiaries. One was my client, one was his cousin and the other was a charity. The aunt's estate had a value of approximately $500,000.00 including her home, bank accounts, her car and personal property. The aunt left her home to my client and his cousin, with everything else going to the charity. All very straight forward.

The problem arose for my client when he learned all of the steps necessary to get the property out of the estate and into his and the charity's hands. Especially troublesome to him was that a court would need to approve everything he did. Because his aunt had a "Simple Will" we needed to open a probate to make the "Simple Will" work.

The "Simple Will" Probate Process We Went Through:

  1. Prepare the necessary documents to submit the Will to the court.
  2. File the documents with the court, with the will and a filing fee; this opened the probate case.
  3. Wait for the court to approve the filing and issue orders appointing my client as the personal representative of his aunt's estate.
  4. We sent notices to all known creditors letting them know that the aunt had passed away and that we opened a probate.
  5. We published a notice in a newspaper to all unknown creditors letting them know that the aunt had passed away and that we opened a probate.
  6. Sent notices to all heirs, both those receiving something from the Will and those who were not going to receive anything.
  7. We filed notices with the Court showing that we sent and published the notices to creditors and that we sent the notices to heirs.
  8. Sit and wait for the creditors to make a claim or for the heirs to challenge the Will.
  9. Inventory the entire estate. This inventory also must include values for all of the property in the estate, this required an appraisal of the aunts home.
  10. File the inventory with the court and send the inventory to all beneficiaries.
  11. Engage an estate sale company to liquidate all of the aunt's personal property. The estate paid the estate sale company a flat fee along with a percentage of everything they sold.
  12. My client and his cousin did not want to own the home together. We engaged a real estate agent to sell the home.
  13. Wait for the home to sell, paying for the real estate agent and the title company services.
  14. Wait for the estate sale company to finish selling the aunt's property.
  15. After liquidating the personal property and selling the home, we prepared a final accounting showing all money in and out of the estate. We filed the final accounting with the Court.
  16. Wait for the Court to approve the final accounting.
  17. Prepare a proposal for distribution of the estate assets to the beneficiaries.
  18. File the proposal of distribution and send it to the beneficiaries and heirs.
  19. Wait for approval of the proposal for distribution from the court, beneficiaries, and heirs.
  20. Upon receiving the approvals of the proposal for distribution, prepare checks for beneficiaries. We also needed to prepare receipts for the beneficiaries to sign showing their received their share.
  21. File the receipts from the beneficiaries with the Court.
  22. Prepare and file with the Court a Closing Statement requesting that the Court close the Probate and release my client from further obligations as the Personal Representative.

This does not include the time my client needed to spend working with the real estate agent, getting the home ready for sale, opening estate accounts at the bank, and meeting with me in person and by telephone. I also spent significant time communicating the Court, the heirs, and the beneficiaries.

"Simple Will" Does Not Mean The Process is Simple

How long did this all take? The Probate opened in March and closed in July of the next year. The Probate of this "Simple Will" took 16 months. The time this Probate took is not standard but is not far from unusual.

If you have a "Simple Will" or are thinking that a "Simple Will" is right for you, give us a call at 503-850-8345 to start a conversation about better options for you and your family.

About the Author Donald Rolfe

Father, husband, entrepreneur, and owner of a trivia filled brain. I help families and individuals plan for the unexpected and end of life. Schedule a Complimentary Strategy Session to chat with me, get answers to your questions, and find out about your Estate Plan options.

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