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Lack of Estate Planning Costs Texas Woman Millions in Classic Cars

It's fine and good to talk about the importance of estate planning, creating a valid will and ensuring the well-being of loved ones. All are completely valid points and very worth the time and consideration. However, sometimes a real life example can go a lot farther towards making the point.

Enter Darla Lexington, longtime companion of wealthy Texas attorney John O'Quinn. For 10 years, Lexington and O'Quinn shared a life together. During that time, they added on to a collection of rare vehicles, numbering 800 at the time of O'Quinn's sudden death in 2009.

Those who knew the couple assumed that they were married and, this month, Darla described to a Texas probate judge the private ceremony in which the two were officially joined. However, there was a slight problem.

None of this was in writing.

There was no marriage certificate, no documents establishing Darla as even a co-owner on any of the car titles. In O'Quinn's will, last updated a year prior to his death, he left everything to charity.

The classic car collection was put up for sale, except for five cars which Darla claimed O'Quinn had meant for her. When the probate judge heard the case, he more or less had to take her word for it. In the end, it wasn't enough.

The cars should go up for sale soon.

If you have plans for the future, people you wish to take care of or organizations you want to support after your passing - what are you waiting for? Estate plans can almost always be adjusted if things change, but waiting to set one up in the first place almost invites disaster.

Last week, Darla Lexington learned this the hard way.

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