The Biblical parable found in Luke 12:16-21 tells the story of a rich man who was blessed with a great harvest. The man decided to keep all of his riches for himself, retire and “eat, drink and be merry” for the rest of his days. However, that very night God told him that it would be his last night on earth and then asked him “Now who will get all of your riches?”
The Bible doesn’t say whether or not the man answered God. I don’t know if they even had estate planning in Biblical times but if the rich man lived in California today and didn’t have an estate plan, here are some of the possible answers to God’s question:
If he had no spouse, domestic partner or blood relatives that could be found (in essence, no heirs), all of his riches would go to the State of California (the State can really use that money!).
If his only heir was a distant relative who he didn’t like and hadn’t spoken to in many years, that person would nevertheless receive all his riches (that would be a nightmare!).
If he was divorced with four legitimate children and three illegitimate children, the riches would be divided seven equal ways among the children (thanks to the miracle of DNA!).
Lo and behold, his girlfriend comes up with a questionable will, which of course leaves everything to her. She and the children each run out and hire fancy lawyers for the will contest. Eventually the quickly mounting legal fees consume the riches (please, don’t hold it against the lawyers). Don’t you just hate it when God comes to you with a tough question, and you don’t have the right answer?
© 2009 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.
(Marlene S. Cooper is a native of Pasadena, a graduate of UCLA, and has been an attorney for nearly 30 years. Her practice is focused entirely on estate planning and probate. You may obtain further information on estate planning and probate at www.marlenecooperlaw.com. You may also contact Attorney Cooper directly at (626) 791-7530, or by e-mail at MarleneCooperLaw@ aol.com. The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).