The Need for an Estate Law Attorney

In today’s confusing financial world, the need for an estate law attorney is getting more and more important every year.

While it may seem as if an estate planning lawyer simply drafts wills, an experienced estate law attorney understands the legal details that can save your family from unnecessary litigation and legal problems.

This blog post will examine one important case involving estate law. The modern Supreme Court case of Astrue vs. Capato reveals why it is important to have the law on your side even after death.

The Case

Astrue vs. Capato highlights how incorrect wording can make all the difference in a legally binding document, and why a professional should be consulted to navigate these waters. But first, some background.

Robert Capato, a Florida resident, passed away in 2002. Before his death, he battled with esophageal cancer and received chemotherapy as a treatment.

Worried about the possibility of sterility, Robert and his wife Karen had Robert’s sperm frozen to be used at a later time. Robert ended up being able to have children after the treatment and fathered a child sometime later. When Robert died in 2002, Karen used his frozen sperm and undergo in-vitro fertilization less than a year later. Eighteen months after Robert died, Karen gave birth to twins.

The situation grew more complicated when Karen attempted to claim Social Security Survivor Benefits for her twins. The Social Security office turned down her attempt, and when Karen appealed the matter to a federal judge, the judge supported the Social Security Administration: In order to claim survivor benefits, the father must be living at the time of conception.

Karen appealed again to the Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled in favor of Karen. This landed the case in the Supreme Court, which turned the ruling back against Karen and her Social Security Claim. Justice Ginsburg wrote, “The law Congress enacted calls for resolution of Karen Capato’s application for child’s insurance benefits by reference to state intestacy law.” Essentially, the Social Security Administration makes its ruling based on state law, in this case Florida’s.

If the Capatos Had Hired an Estate Law Attorney

The problem in this scenario is that the Capatos had a signed and notarized document that was not supported by Robert Capato’s official will. The notarized document read, “Any children born to us, who were conceived by the use of our embryos, shall in all respects and for purposes, including but not limited to descent of property, be children of our bodies.” However, the will was not open-ended like the notarized document. It mentioned Karen, their son conceived before Robert’s death, and Robert’s children from another marriage, but did not include any children conceived after his death.

The Social Security’s decision deferred to Florida state law, which mandates that unless specifically stated in the will, children conceived after a parent has passed away cannot inherit from that parent.

Words are everything when it comes to legally binding documents. Had the Capatos hired an estate law attorney, such loopholes would surely have been closed for good. No doubt Robert Capato would have wanted his twins to be supported, and common sense dictates that his own blood relations should inherit, but these desires were not clearly defined in his will.

From Simple to Complex

Perhaps your situation isn’t nearly as complicated as the Capatos’ was. However, an estate law attorney can still give you the peace of mind that your intentions will be carried out. The more assets you have, the more important it is to hire someone to manage them after your death. Hiring a professional is always a great idea if you want the best results, especially if you can’t be there to guide the process.