Probate Court – Retired Mover’s Will Leaves $540K to Co-Workers
The New York Times recently detailed the travel of a retired mover’s will through probate court. The retired mover, George Bell, died in Queens. He worked for years in Queens, but had retired on disability in 1996. Bell had executed a will thirty years before his death. The will named an executor. However, by the named executor declined to serve. The matter then moved to probate court. Due to the named executor’s declination, the will was then transferred to public administrators in Queens County.
As he aged it appears Mr. Bell became increasingly isolated. He kept up with a small number of friends and had few relatives. In order to confirm his identity, and the cause of death, the public administrator was forced to retrace Mr. Bell’s medical history by cold calling local hospitals and doctors.
One of Mr. Bell’s heirs, a former girlfriend, had already passed away by the time of Mr. Bell’s death. Those proceeds went to the former girlfriend’s living heirs. Mr. Bell named other heirs, including a former co-worker. That co-worker, Martin Westbrook, appeared thankful for the found money. He planned on spending “Big George’s” money on medical costs including hearing aids. He also planned on giving a friend some of the funds to the widow of another co-worker.
Overall at the time of Mr. Bell’s passing his estate totaled $540,000.00. The administrator had to comb through Mr. Bell’s apartment to uncover his financial condition. His assets included bank accounts, a 2005 Toyota, a life insurance policy, and assorted personal effects. All told, after legal fees, administration fees, and other costs, Mr. Bell’s estate still totaled over half a million dollars.
The moral of the story has to involve the necessity for not only a will, but an updated will. Mr. Bell’s situation may be unique, but his case raises important will, trust, and estate concerns. The issues that arise without a competent willing executor (and heir(s)) are limitless. Without an executor, or live heirs, a substantial estate can end up in either unanticipated hands or in state coffers.
Callaghan & Callaghan provides trusted and experienced legal counsel in all probate matters. We can help you and your family prepare for the future by creating an estate plan today.