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Importance of revisiting your will

A 92-year-old widow, apparently a millionaire, lived sparingly, appearing as though she had few assets. However, that wasn't enough to keep her safe from her greedy neighbors. The woman was stabbed to death in her home in July 2011, when she caught her neighbor in the act of burglary.

Her neighbors had somehow discovered that she was not the poor pauper she seemed at first glance. They discovered that she had money stashed throughout her home. According to prosecutors, the man who stabbed her and his wife and son had already stolen at least $300,000 from the widow. Her killer, thinking she was not at home, apparently went back to try to steal more money. But when the elderly woman caught him in the act, he allegedly stabbed her repeatedly.

Her neighbor pleaded guilty to murder in the first degree in 2012, and has since has died in prison. His wife and son are now serving time in prison as co-conspirators.

After inventorying the widow's estate and liquidating her assets, her net worth turned out to be just shy of a million dollars. Some large amounts of cash were found at her home — one sum as large as $15,455. Several different bank accounts contained hundreds of thousands of dollars in them. The meager home she lived in sold for a mere $7,500.

The woman did have a will, but the only problem was that it had not been updated since 1986. Her left all to her husband who died in 1994. The couple had no children. The state is now doing a search for any known heirs. Only some "in-laws" have come forward to question law enforcement about any money she might have had; however, under Pennsylvania law, they are not considered heirs.

This case is a prime example of why estate attorneys continuously remind people to review their wills every few years to see if updates need to be made. This woman and her husband were frugal, possibly from living through the Great Depression. They probably worked hard for their money and should have been the ones to decide where the money should go after their deaths. If no heirs are found, the courts will make that determination.

Source: Observer-Reporter, "Murder victim Evelyn Stepko was a millionaire, court records show," Barbara Miller, Jan. 07, 2016

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