Law Office of Richard M. Russell
197 Palmer Avenue
Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540

This site does not provide legal advice. Please visit the Law Office of Richard M. Russell for information specific to your circumstances.

Why Are My Documents So Long?

My affairs are so simple. Why are my Estate Planning documents so long?

Estate planning documents originally were relatively brief documents. After all, it is not difficult to express that your property should be divided among your children or your attorney-in-fact (appointed in a Durable Power of Attorney document) should manage your (relatively unsophisticated) affairs.

Over the years, estate planning and probate attorneys have encountered circumstances not contemplated in the earlier, brief documents. Frequently, these circumstances are added to the traditional documents: After all, it’s almost always preferable to contemplate and address a situation--no matter how unlikely to come to pass--rather than run the risk that the situation develops but is not addressed--perhaps leading to conflict or litigation.

With the passage of time, the list of uncommon circumstances has grown, and so has the length of the documents. 

Frequently estate planning documents deal with elaborate financial assets to do not presently exist, such as land contaminated with environmental pollutants or shares in a company seeking bankruptcy protection. The reality is that it is not possible to know what future assets an individual will own. It is not uncommon for people to unknowingly own property (for instance, property acquired by ancestors) or unexpectedly acquire property (for instance, inheriting property from one who is either secretly wealthy or who become wealthy from his or her own inheritance or lottery winnings). These unsuspecting assets may well involve unique circumstances (e.g., environment contamination, shares in struggling companies). It is not wise to await for these circumstances to develop before addressing them because when they develop one may not be in a position to deal with them.

Suffice it to say, it is preferable to contemplate circumstances that may never come to pass rather than ignore the possibility and leave others to deal with unanswered questions.