Many Hollywood fans grew up enjoying the antics of famed actor and comedian Jerry Lewis. Georgia residents were likely among many others throughout the nation who mourned his death at age 91 from heart failure. Since then, news has gone viral regarding several estate planning decisions Lewis reportedly made before he died.
In 2012, Lewis executed documents in a final will and testament that specifically excluded his six sons from inheritance. The father of many named each of his sons and clearly stated it was his explicit intent to disinherit them and their descendants. While some shared their shock and dismay regarding these decisions, others say it is not uncommon for elderly parents to disinherit adult children from their estates.
As it stands, Lewis’s entire $50 million estate has been left to his widow and their adopted daughter. The situation has grown more complicated, however, because a homeless woman has come forward saying she is entitled to a portion of the estate. The woman says that since she has DNA evidence confirming that she, too, is Lewis’s biological child, and she is not mentioned in the will (which means she was not officially disinherited) she should be given some of her father’s assets.
The key to helping loved ones avoid estate planning disputes like this one is to make sure all executed documents are clearly written, leaving no room for contest. An experienced Georgia estate planning attorney can review a proposed estate plan and provide suggestions for clarification where needed. In the event that a parent’s final will is contested, litigation may be necessary to resolve the issue.
Source: wealthmanagement.com, “Jerry’s Kids Get Cut Out … Or Do They?“, David H. Lenok, Sept. 22, 2017