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Question for legal eagles and those with experience in estate planning etc

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Jenny, Apr 13, 2010.

  1. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    In legal documents (ie wills, power of attorney etc), how important is it to have everyone's full legal names?

    I'm dealing with something now where various parties are known by different and not necessarily legal names, or use short forms of their names on many other legal documents (ie passports, SSN), or have married names, etc.

    Should one always use the legal (ie birth) name, or the one the person is best known by? What about middle names?

    Does this have to be consistent with all parties mentioned in a document, or can you have some in some form (ie shortened name/middle name/married name) and some in others?

    In the case of wills etc, does it make sense to also note the relationship of the person, ie. sister of, father in law of, etc?

    There's no question who all these people are in the situation I'm working with (ie no worries of fathers and sons with the same name), but I do want to avoid any chance of quarrel or challenge if this isn't perfect.

  2. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

    I'm NOT an estate attorney, so this is NOT legal advice. :) Also, the answer may well depend on which state law governs the will.

    In general, I think using legal names, where possible, would be best, but you could also add the shortened name in parentheses to be totally clear. However, I doubt a court would invalidate a will just because you didn't use the full legal name. From what I recall, the courts seem most focused on making sure the decedent's wishes are carried out. So the goal should be clarity. I totally and completely defer to actual estate attorneys on these questions.
    Jenny and (deleted member) like this.
  3. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

    Having everything consistent is best but there are methods of resolving issues like different names. It is not insurmountable but it may increase time and fees to resolve it.

    However, names on POA should match names on title of property if you ever intend to rely on your POA for a real property related purpose. It gets messy when they don't match as most property transactions are time sensitive.

    This is not legal advice. Always consult a lawyer in your area.
  4. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

    Definitely call a local attorney -- many local bar associations have lawyer referral services, which will get you to someone in your area who is knowledgeable about estate planning. Using the same name consistently is always a good idea == and so is noting additional information (relationship, other names used/known by, etc.)
  5. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    My husband will use both names - the legal name, carried throughout the document, and the preferred name mentioned once at the first naming. That's what aka (also known as) is for. He's in Massachusetts.

    eta, this is most important for relationships by marriage. For example, John Doe has a daughter named Jane. She marries James Brown, but doesn't change her name. John Doe also has a son who married Jane Green. Jane changed her name with the Social Security Administration and is listed as Jane G. Doe. In this case, it's important to spell out the daughter in law as Jane Green Doe.
  6. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Good point - thanks.

    We have a lawyer, but just wanted a couple of other opinions :)
  7. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    I'm not an attorney, but I've seen a lot of wills that name an organization for which I volunteer as treasurer, and quite a number show multiple names for the same person, and also the relationship (Francis Xavier Smith, also known as Frank Smith, son of Robert James Smith, and for women Anna Maria Mendoza nee Albonini, daughter of Mario Albonini.)