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2 words in a will would have prevented a legal battle

A lot of Americans believe that inheritance should be simple. They think a child or other appointed heir should get everything that a person owned when he or she died. Many people live by that principle, never bothering to make estate plans or write a proper legal will. But this is not a good strategy, as inheritance can get complicated without clear instructions.

An attorney is often the key to a proper estate plan, as a legal professional can study the many intricacies of large estates and help writers of wills save on taxes or save for their family with instruments like trusts and payable-upon-death accounts. Attention to detail is key, because anything left to interpretation may be left to a probate court.

A major inheritance in Tennessee is at stake in a strange legal battle that some argue was caused by a typographical error. The holder of ancestral lands worth millions specified in his will that his sister's children would inherit if his son died before him. Two religious institutions, a law school and a nonprofit would receive equal shares of the estate if there were no surviving heirs.

The complication comes from the son's death at the age of 21 shortly after his father died. Since the son left no children and no will, the institutions are arguing they are the beneficiaries of the elder man's estate, while a judge in Mississippi ruled the sister's children should inherit.

The inclusion of two words in the final draft would have cleared up the confusion. When details of estates matter the most, you want a legal professional on your side.

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