Interesting News from the World of Estate Planning

By John O’Grady, O’Grady Law Group

Princess Diana

Diana,_Princess_of_WalesThe estate of Princess Diana was not handled with the same grace, dignity and class that she exuded in life. Diana left a “letter of wishes” asking her executors to “divide, at [their] discretion,” her personal property and give one quarter to her godchildren. Each godchild would have received property worth 100,000 pounds ($162,700).

But Diana’s executors never did so. In fact, the executors convinced the court to disregard the “letter of wishes,” without even notifying the godchildren. Instead of 100,000 pounds, each godchild received only a single memento, such as an incomplete tea set, commercially available watercolor painting or, according to one godchild’s parent, a “grubby trinket.” Don’t undermine your will or trust by taking shortcuts. Ideally, your intent should be incorporated into your will or trust and not placed into a separate document. A separate personal property list can work, but giving the executors “discretion” to follow it means that your wishes may not be carried out.


dead-social-logoEven death can’t stop you from letting your Facebook friends and Twitter followers know what you’re up to — thanks to, an Internet startup company that allows the deceased to send pre-written post-mortem social media posts. Developers are even designing computer algorithms that will generate posts in your style about contemporary topics, allowing you to literally communicate from beyond the grave.

If receiving social media messages from departed friends or loved ones seems morbid, consider that it’s only one more example of how Internet culture is changing our lives — and deaths. The benefit, according to, is that people can now keep saying their “final goodbyes” for as long as they want. Provided, of course, they speak their peace in 140 characters or less.

About the author:

ogradyJohn O‘Grady, O’Grady Law Group, APC,  was the 2012 chair of BASF’s Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Section.