Many younger people think they do not need to concern themselves with making a last will and testament. A will is something that older people make when they are in poor health or even on their deathbed, right? Of course, that is ludicrous thinking. Every day we see reports of people cut down in the prime of their lives due to an accident, and in many cases those individuals died without taking the time to make a proper estate plan.
“Star Trek” Actor’s Sudden Death Highlights Legal Effects of Dying Without a Will
Anton Yelchin, a 27-year-old actor residing in Los Angeles, died this past June after he was accidentally crushed by his own car. Yelchin was best known for his appearances in the recent “Star Trek” feature films, the most recent of which premiered shortly after his death. Recently, Yelchin’s parents filed a petition to open a probate estate for their son, who they say died without leaving a will.
He may not have had a will, but Yelchin did leave a probate estate reportedly worth at least $1.4 million. Under California law his parents—Yelchin did not have a spouse or children—have priority entitlement to serve as administrators of his estate. In addition, the parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of their son’s car, which had a known defect that they allege caused the fatal accident.
How Estate Planning Affects a “Wrongful Death” Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is not uncommon in cases where someone has died due to the alleged negligence of another party. In California, wrongful death claims are governed by state law. The personal representative of an estate has the right to bring a wrongful death claim “on behalf” of the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner or surviving children. In a case, like that of Yelchin, where the person had no spouse, partner, or descendants, a wrongful death claim can still be maintained on behalf of “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” Again, in this case that would be Yelchin’s parents.
You Need to Make a Will
Even if a person’s death was not due to third-party negligence, there may be other legal matters pending at the time of a person’s unexpected demise. For example, the deceased may have been involved in a civil lawsuit seeking to collect damages from a third party. Such a claim does not die with the plaintiff but can be continued through his estate. This is yet another reason it is critical to have a personal representative in place as soon as possible after a person’s death. Failing to leave a valid will can lead to significant delays in opening and administering an estate, which in turn may affect such matters as pending litigation.
Making a will is not difficult but it does require following certain legal formalities. A qualified San Diego estate planning lawyer can help explain the process to you and prepare a will and related documents to ensure your family is taken care of should you pass away suddenly. Contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady if you would like to speak with an attorney today.