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$9 million settlement highlights value of trust

It is a sad fact that many people believe wills and trusts are only for the rich and famous. So many people find themselves living check to check that they see no point in drawing up an estate plan. The idea that they might even have an estate may be completely unimaginable to them.

But estate planning attorneys in New Jersey and other states appreciate that assets are defined not just by the society we live in, but also by the value individuals assign to what they own. And in that context, anything can be part of an estate, making estate planning for eventual distribution in the event of death something wise for everyone.

There are also situations in which estates might experience a windfall, such as has reportedly occurred in the matter of 34-year-old Angela Reid, a surgical nurse who died in 2009. The mother of two young boys was run over by a private company bus in January of that year as she was walking to work at New York University. She died three months later.

Lawyers for the woman sued the company claiming that the driver of the bus should never have been allowed behind the wheel because he had an extensive record of 31 convictions for a variety of offenses. Some reportedly involved drugs. He apparently had not revealed information about his history when he applied for the job. But attorneys for the woman said the company also failed to do a proper background check on him.

According to one news report, the company recently settled the suit and agreed to pay the woman's estate $9.5 million. The bulk of the money will be put into a trust fund for her sons, who now live with their father in Florida.

If Reid's attorneys have their way, Angela's legacy will be enhanced further. They've called for federal and state laws to require private bus companies to perform proper background checks and insure proper training of drivers. They say if such a law passes it could be called "Angela's Law," in her memory.

Source: New York Daily News, "The estate of Angela Reid will get $9.5 million after she was fatal struck by a bus," John Marzulli, Jan. 4, 2012

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