Recently I had a referral in which the client refused to pay for advice with regard to estate planning. Naturally I wouldn’t do any work if the client refuses to pay. However, the client insisted that the Will is going to be very straightforward. My gut feel is always that whenever client says the case is simple, I know this is trouble. Anyway to cut the long story short, I decided to recommend the individual a lawyer to write his Will so that I have completely no liability. I didn’t bother to do any fact find nor analysis nor give any recommendations. Effectively I wasn’t able to do anything for him afterall it is going to be a free job.
Later on, I got a gut feel something was not right because he said it is going to be simple. Since he is a friend of someone I know, I felt obligated to follow-up. To my horror, I discovered the client is a Muslim (he got a Chinese name). I almost fainted because Muslims can only Will away at most 1/3 of their estate. Moreover, what is to be Will away in that 1/3 cannot be their own family members. Thus, his case is far from simple. In fact, his case is considered a highly complex case.
If I didn’t follow-up, he would have wrote his Will bequeathing his assets to his own family members. This is not permitted as the other 2/3 are already distributed to family members according to the Faraid. I found out that he was not pleased with the Faraid way of distribution and wants to alter the distribution. Hence, he thought that writing a Will will supersede the Faraid. He is dead wrong!
This is a classic case of individual who attempts to DIY their own estate planning. Individuals who think they are smart try to DIY to their own detriment. If he had agreed to sign on a fee-based estate planning from me, I would have captured his religion through my thorough fact finding process.
My conclusion is this: Being cheapo does not pay.
By the way, the individual still did not pay me despite me giving him the advice that the Will he wanted to write containing family members who are beneficiaries will not be valid under Muslim law.
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