When many of us in Odessa think about what dying without a will might mean, we often don’t think about possible litigation over our remains, yet this is exactly what is happening to Jim Thorpe 60 years after his death. Thorpe, one of the most famous Native American athletes in our country’s history, died in 1953, but he died without a will. Although it appears that his surviving family members are not fighting about his estate or his money, they are fighting about the best possible place for his remains.
Thorpe was going to be buried in Oklahoma, where he was originally from, yet his widow had his body sent to Pennsylvania in the middle of his funeral service. The town she chose agreed to rename itself after Thorpe, as well as build a memorial for the famed athlete.
Had Thorpe died with a valid will, however, he could have clearly indicated what he wanted after his death. He could have listed where he wanted to be buried and what sort of memorial, if any, should be built. Without a will, his funeral service, burial and memorial were all dependent on what others claimed he wanted. For Texans looking to have some control over where they are buried, including that information in a will is quite important.
Yet, because Thorpe did not record his wishes in a will, his family is continuing to fight about where he should be buried. His sons are fighting to have his body moved back to Native American land in Oklahoma and a federal judge has recently ruled in favor of the sons.
The town in which Thorpe is currently interred has filed an appeal.
Source:The Pike County Courier, “Pa. town appeals to keep body of Jim Thorpe,” Michael Rubinkam, Sept. 24, 2013
People like to plan things: what to do during vacation, what to have for dinner and what career move to make next. This planning also extends to what people would like to have happen after death, the problem is, however, that unless someone takes the proactive step of creating a will or some other estate planning tool, no one will know how the property should be distributed. Instead, El Paso residents’ property will become subject to Texas’s intestacy laws.
When someone dies intestate, or without an estate planning device in place, his or her property and assets are distributed according to a set of Texas statutes. The problem is that these laws can be convoluted and difficult to understand without the help of an estate planning lawyer. And, even if you can figure them out, they may not be how you want to divide your things after you die.
Take, for example, the following situation: a woman dies before both of her parents. The woman leaves behind two daughters, who ostensibly inherit their mothers’ possessions. When these daughters’ grandmother and then grandfather die, who gets what? While this may seem like a question used to stump law students, it is exactly the sort of problem Texas courts must resolve with no will or estate planning device in play.
It is likely that the daughters would receive their grandparents’ estate, but the situation can change very quickly with even the slightest variation to the story. When a family member does die and there is a question of who should get what, it is important to consult a estate planning attorney for clarification.
Source:San Antonio Express, “Do grandchildren or great-aunt inherit?” Paul Premack, June 19, 2013