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Family tries to secure 'hermit' uncle's $1.6 million estate

A retired factory worker from the Milwaukee area died after developing advanced dementia at the age of 92. Before his health began to fail, however, the man went to a financial advisor in Mequon to get help with a very conservative retirement investment. During the last several years of his life, he ended up giving power of attorney for medical and health issues to his investment advisor -- who he also made the beneficiary of his two annuities and his estate valued at approximately $1.6 million.

The elderly man, who is said to have lived like a hermit, did not leave anything to his nieces and nephews who number approximately a dozen. Rather, all of his estate and affairs were left to the care of his investment advisor. After the man passed away, the advisor arranged for the 92-year-old man's private funeral and cremation. Family members were not allowed to attend the services.

The man's nieces and nephews have filed an action to contest the estate plan in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. In the lawsuit, the family alleges that the man's investment advisor pressured him to make her the only beneficiary of his estate. Family members are saying that their uncle was isolated and living with dementia when the financial advisor had him create his estate plan. They refer to the advisor as "a shark" and they say that she was "laying a trap."

At this time, the money related to the man's annuities has been frozen by the state pending the conclusion of the lawsuit. Furthermore, the investment advisor has been ordered by state regulators to pay over $2 million in fines.

When family members feel that their loved one was coerced into signing over his or her assets in a new will or new estate plan, it might be possible to contest a will or estate plan in court following the death of the individual. In some cases, if the will contest is successfully navigated, the improperly drafted will may be invalidated.

Source: Journal Sentinal, "Who gets $1.6 million inheritance — relatives of a virtual hermit or his financial adviser?," Cary Spivak and Mary Spicuzza, Dec. 29, 2017

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