Richter Trial Lawyers Article

Making a difference

John Richter
Partner
Richter Trial Lawyers | thegoodfirm

Paris has two famous cemeteries at Montmartre and Montparnasse memorializing the named and catacombs beneath the city holding six million unnamed. The Montparnasse Cemetery holds the remains of the French poet Charles Baudelaire. In contrast to surrounding memorials, his tomb is often decorated with candles, flowers and notes. Poetry such as Les Fleurs du Mal still touches people 150 years after his death.

Charles Baudelaire’s grave, Montparnasse Cemetery.

Charles Baudelaire spent much of his life in poverty but left a legacy of thoughts and words. Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates and Jimmy Pattison have left or are leaving their legacies in libraries, foundations and hospitals. All different kinds of legacies touch people and make a difference.

Lawyers and notaries can help people make a difference by incorporating charitable gifts into their Wills. A well documented and prepared Will goes a long way to avoid estate litigation from family members who wish to challenge a charitable gift.

Estate litigation includes reviewing the mental capacity of the Will maker. Mental capacity has been defined as a disposing mind and memory able to understand on its own initiative the essential elements of Will making such as what is the property and who should be considered as beneficiaries.

Estate litigation also includes reviewing undue influence. Undue influence has been defined as the ability of one person to dominate the will of another whether through coercion, manipulation or the outright but subtle abuse of power. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) changed the law for testamentary dispositions involving undue influence by including those situations where the potential for dependence or domination was present.

Lastly, estate litigation includes reviewing whether the Will maker knew and approved the contents of the Will. Even with capacity and without undue influence, a Will maker must truly know and intend the dispositions on an informed basis. Without that, the gift or even the Will can fail.

Regrettably, charities are often not considered by Will makers for the simple reason they are not aware of them. There is no shortage of causes in the arenas of art, education, environment, religion and sports. Law firms like ours support and encourage building the link between these causes and the lawyers and notaries who prepare Wills.

Together, we can all make a difference through legacy giving.

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