From the start you should look at estate planning as an ongoing process, and this is one reason why it is a good idea to develop a strong working relationship with your estate planning attorney. When you identify someone that you have come to know and trust he or she will gain an understanding of your situation over the years and give you continual, ongoing guidance so that your wishes are ultimately carried out.
Multiple changes in marital status are quite common these days. When you get married or divorced it is very likely that you’re going to want to change your existing estate plan. If you don’t, complications can and ensue, as we have seen with the case of Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall.
Smith and Marshall married in 1994 when the former Playboy Playmate of the Year was 26 and Marshall was 89 years of age. The oil tycoon died just over a year later, leaving behind a fortune that was estimated at $1.6 billion.
Smith contended that Marshall told her that he was leaving her half of his wealth. But in the will that he had he left almost all of it to one of his sons, E. Pierce Marshall, disinheriting the other.
When you are extraordinarily wealthy and you don’t leave anything at all to your wife, a woman that you recently married, she can certainly contend that you intended to do so but never got around to it. Because of this opening, a long court battle ensued between Smith and E. Pierce Marshall.
Along the way both of them passed away, but the matter of the contested estate continued on. Finally, after some 15 years, the Supreme Court made a ruling this past June denying the estate of Anna Nicole Smith any portion of Marshall’s fortune. It is going to the estate of E. Pierce Marshall in its entirety.
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