As mentioned the other day, Prince did not leave a will. A Minnesota court today appointed a corporate trust company as special administrator to manage his affairs and identify his heirs (I can help – his sister, 3 surviving half siblings, and the children of his 2 deceased half-siblings will inherit under law). His estate is rumored to be worth $300 million.
An older woman adopted her younger girlfriend/partner in the 1970’s so the girlfriend could inherit the trust fund created by the older woman’s father. When the older woman died in 1997, the girlfriend inherited a substantial sum from the trust. The younger woman died in 2009 without a will. Her brother staked a claim to her $25 million estate as her closest living relative. However, NY law (and Ohio law) provides that once someone is adopted, they lose all relationships with their prior family, including the ability to inherit from them, and the ability to leave them assets without a will. The woman’s estate will escheat to the State of NY because she has no relatives.
1. Lawyers in this case are arguing that the older woman adopted her girlfriend because same sex couples did not have the same rights as traditional couples in the 1970s. However, that argument is a red herring because the funds were in a trust which could only be left to a descendant which caused the woman to adopt her girlfriend. Funds not in trust could be left to anyone she pleased – girlfriend, charity, or relatives.
2. I draft trusts to prevent this type of adoption chicanery by including only children who were adopted prior to the age of 18.
3. In an era of Obergefell and Kaitlyn Jenner’s reality show, it is easy to create a legal smokescreen by arguing discrimination from 40 years ago, when the real culprit is simple neglect by a wealthy person to create a will.
When Cory Monteith, of “Glee” fame, died in 2013 he did not leave a will. By law, his $810,000 estate is to be distributed to his divorced parents as his closest living relatives. However, because his father did not pay child support to his mother nor see Cory for almost 20 years, he is prohibited from inheriting from his son, which leaves all of the estate to his mother.
Two small points:
1. When one dies without a will, state law dictates who will receive one’s assets. In Ohio, spouses are first in line, followed by children, then parents.
2. It is unusual for young, single people to have wills, but those with $800K estates and a history of substance abuse should definitely have one.
From today’s Dear Prudence column on Slate:
Q. Death Around the Holidays: A man I work with and with whom I’ve had an affair the last two months died suddenly over the weekend. I am pregnant with his child. He didn’t know. His current wife, now widow, doesn’t either. How do I broach this subject? His estate is rather large.
A: I’d say I’m sorry for your loss, but since apparently you aren’t, I won’t bother. For your financial interests, contact a lawyer specializing in family law. I don’t have any advice on where you go to get help for your lack of morals—or heart.
1. If the man left all of his assets to his wife, I do not think that there will be much available for the child other than Social Security because the widow is not obligated to leave assets to the child.
2. If the man did not have a will, in Ohio the child would essentially share in 2/3 of the probate assets with the other children.
3. If the man left assets in a trust for his wife and children, which ultimately are to be distributed to his children, the child from the affair will likely inherit the same share as his other children because children are usually defined generically in wills and trusts not as “children from my relationship with my wife.”
4. I doubt Ann Landers and Dear Abby would have answered as tersely as Prudie did.
5. Giving the woman the benefit of the doubt, which Prudie did not, the writer might have adapted her writing style to the 21st century blog post/Internet style and left out all perceived unnecessary adjectives (and emotion). Or, she could be a Hemingway fan.
I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.