Pennsylvania residents may be familiar with the story of an Austrian women who destroyed the equivalent of $1,020,490. This was reportedly done just before her death in an effort to keep heirs from inheriting it, and it is believed that the woman decided to take the drastic action to circumvent European estate laws. In many European nations, assets in an estate will automatically pass to a spouse or certain linear descendants.
The shredded currency, which was found in a nursing home the woman stayed in, was to be replaced according to the Austrian Central Bank. A representative of the bank said failure to transfer the money would punish the wrong people. While it may be tough to disinherit relatives in European nations, it is relatively easy to do in the United States if an individual has a will. However, if an individual has no will, the distribution of assets will be made in accordance with the state law of intestacy.
When creating an estate plan, it may be a good idea to be as specific as possible. Creating a will may make it easier to transfer assets to specific people or entities while omitting everyone else. To be considered valid, wills may need to be signed by two or more adults who are of sound mind. If a will is not considered valid, the language contained within it may not be honored.
It may also be a worthwhile to create a trust, which operates like a will but has additional features to protect assets. For instance, a trust is held outside of an estate, which may allow it to avoid probate and enable a speedy transfer of assets. Terms of a trust may also go into effect during an individual's lifetime if he or she becomes mentally incapacitated.