Estate of Hugh A. Miller, Decedent

Mark L. Gantz

Case Conclusion Date:January 30, 1997

Practice Area:Probate

Outcome:Over $1,000,000 turned over to charities!

Description:I originally represented the estate of Hugh Miller's late wife. At the conclusion of that matter, Mr. Miller, then in his 80's, requested that I prepare a new Will for him, leaving all but $60,000 of his estate to various charities of his choosing. Mr. Miller insisted that I act as his Personal Representative, since he had no children, and his only heirs were six nieces and nephews, who lived in Canada, and had little contact with him. He also requested that I act as his attorney in fact pursuant to a General Durable Power of Attorney over his assets in the event he became unable to take care of his own financial affairs. Mr. Miller moved into a senior apartment residence, and lived independenly for next couple of years.He then had a stroke, moved into an assisted living facility and requested my assistance as attorney in fact. I then managed his assets, and paid his bills for a short time until he passed away. As Personal Representative I arranged for Mr. Miller's funeral and burial. His wishes were to be buried next to his first wife, who had died 20 years earlier. He owned a double burial plot, with one headstone intended for both graves. Unfortunately, the engraving of the headstone on Mr. Miller's side of the plot contained his wife's inscription, and the headstone was blank on his wife's side of the plot. I was able to locate the original work order from twenty years earlier, and Mr. Miller had signed his approval, obviously not realizing the error. I attempted to have the headstone engraved with Mr. Miller's inscription and arrows pointing to the correct grave, but was told that this was not appropriate or possible. Even though virtually no one visiting the gravesite would ever discover the error, it just was not right to have the headstone engraved backwards. I elected to purchase a new, correctly engraved, headstone. I located the six nieces and nephews, advised them of Mr. Miller's passing, and invited them to the memorial service I had planned. None of the heirs elected to attend the service. There was some displeasure expressed by a couple of the heirs, when they learned that their shares of the estate were only $10,000 each. I successfully quelled this by relating that the Will I had prepared updated a prior Will, which devised only $6,000 to each of them. The charitable beneficiaries were all contacted, and due to the size of the devises to each, I was able to negotiate suitable plaques and/or tributes memorializing Mr. Miller's passing for many years to come. Mr. Miller wore a hearing aid during the last few years of his life, and had purchased a new one only months before his death. His nearly new hearing aid was donated to a children's charity, giving the gift of sound to a 6 year old child. This would have made Mr. Miller very happy!