Disorganization Usually Doesn't Turn Out This Well

He didn't make it easy, but Robert Spann gave his daughters quite a gift.

Spann used to hide valuables in odd places in his Arizona home, without documenting or telling anyone their location, not even his heirs. After his death in 2001, the children went through his home and came up with hidden treasure that included stocks, bonds, and canisters stuffed with gold and cash.

After combing through their father's house, the daughters sold it "as is." Turns out, "as is" included $500,000 Spann had hidden in the walls that the daughters did not find during their prior searches. The contractor who found the cash, the couple who had bought the home and hired the contractor, and the daughters, all went after the money in court. On May 31, the Arizona Court of Appeals delivered its decision [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers]: The daughters got the money.

The Spann daughters' saga ended well for them. Luck and the law were on their side. Most adult children whose parents don't get their affairs in order don't find buried treasure. They find themselves having to sort out a financial and legal mess.

The number one reason people fail to get their affairs in order and create a solid estate plan is because thinking about mortaility is, well, just not fun.  But there's a second reason close behind: It's not fun to round up years of paperwork and take inventory of your belongings, either. But I encourage you to take on the challenge, one day at a time. If it's difficult for you to sort it all out, it will be exponentially more difficult for your loved ones after you're gone.   

Attorney Joseph S. Karp is a Florida Bar Certified and Nationally Certified Elder Law Attorney focusing on Elder Law, Probate, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Special Needs Planning and Estate Litigation. He is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell. Mr. Karp is the founder of The Karp Law Firm, a South Florida law firm with offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach and St. Lucie, Florida.  Mr. Karp was named a 2011 SuperLawyer by SuperLawyer Magazine and a member of the 2011 Florida Legal Elite by Florida Trend Magazine. He is admitted to practice law in New York as well as Florida. Visit Mr. Karp's Florida Elder Law and Estate Planning website. 

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