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Friendly neighbor inherits $12.5 million for acts of kindness

With the recent record Powerball jackpot being awarded to individuals in Arizona and Missouri, it seems as though Connecticut residents will have to hold off their dreams for another day. Of course, with the virtually impossible odds of winning the lottery jackpot, individuals may have a better chance of gaining a sudden inheritance from a random neighbor.

For one woman, the latter option recently became a reality after a widow left the woman her entire estate worth about $12.5 million. The matter was not without controversy, however.

The widow had originally left her estate to a niece. However, she became convinced that her family was trying to put her in a nursing home and take her fortune from her. Therefore, she sought to change her will to disinherit her family members for their treatment of the woman.

Meanwhile, the next-door neighbor became increasingly helpful toward the widow, including buying the widow groceries and assisting with chores. After the widow became ill, the neighbor provided both financial and moral support, including helping the widow pay her bills and organize her finances.

In response to the neighbor's kind acts, the widow left her entire estate to the neighbor after she died at the age of 95. A judge upheld the widow's change of heart.

As a general matter, it is not uncommon for individuals to change their mind about how to divide their money after they die. There are specific requirements that must be followed in order to change a prior will, however.

Namely, an old will must be revoked before a new will can take effect. This may be accomplished by including a provision in the new will to this effect, although experts also recommend physically destroying the old will to avoid confusion.

Alternatively, individuals may execute a codicil, which amends a will to revoke part of it or add a new provision. Just like the original will, the codicil must follow testamentary requirements and be witnessed. Ultimately, if a person has significant changes to a prior will, it is best to work with an experienced attorney who can ensure the individual's wishes are followed.

Source: Fox News, "Australian woman reportedly leaves $12.5M estate to neighbor," Nov. 28, 2012

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