Have you ever wondered just how little you could get away with in your last will and testament? Aletta Stager of Brooklyn, NY holds the distinction of having executed one of the shortest wills on record—a mere 2 lines long!
“Nov. 29, 1895. I give to my cousin, Nettie M. Cowan, all money that I have in the Bowery Savings Bank.
Aletta Stager, 131 Berkeley Place, Brooklyn, N.Y.”
Of course, things have changed in the probate and estate planning world in the one hundred plus years since Ms. Stager executed her will. A glaring omission from the two lines above is the nomination of an executor. If you don’t nominate an executor in your will the state will choose one for you. Also, even if you have only one person in mind as your beneficiary, you’ll want to talk to an attorney about secondary beneficiaries, who can include charities and non-profits if you don’t have any family or friends to whom you’d like to leave your estate.
Even back in 1895 Aletta Stager’s property ended up going to the state of New York when no heirs—including the named beneficiary—could be found. Perhaps if Ms. Stager had included a couple more lines in her will her estate could have gone to benefit her favorite charity instead of being swallowed up by the state.
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