Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Cost of Ignorance

By most measures, Larry Hillblom was a smart guy, but he lost his senses when he decided to draft his own will.

Mr. Hillblom was the "H" in DHL Corp., the air-courier giant. His interest was valued at $600 million before he died in 1995. He graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law at Berkeley and argued high-profile international cases before the Ninth Circuit. He was a special judge in his adopted county, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

But when Mr. Hillblom decided to draft his own will, he exhibited little intelligence. In the will, he left most of his $600 million to university medical centers for research. But, alas, the will lacked one detail: a simple, one-sentence disinheritance clause.

Mr. Hillblom's drafting failure was unforntunate, because over the years he had fathered several children with young women through the South Pacific. The mother of Hillblom's oldest known child named him "Junior Larry Hillblocm." When Junior was ten, an attorney represented him and three other offspring and sued Hillblom's estate, claiming inheritance rights.

The estate, DHL, and the various medical research universities hired over 100 buttoned-down attorneys to fight the paternity claims. After more than four years of litigation, the case was resolved.

The four children won.

A very important lesson can be learned from Mr. Hillblom's mistake. It is always advisable to consult an expert in ensuring your estate plan will be carried out in the way your intended it to. Or pay the price to become the expert yourself. Check out our website.

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