Today, we will look at the second of four real-life estate planning scenarios recently mentioned to me and which threaten future family harmony amongst other issues…
A Second Marriage and Secret Love Child Are In the Mix!
A man, let’s say his name is Paul, has a number of health complications and has had episodes when death seemed close at hand. He has two adult children, Larry and Delores, from a previous marriage, as well as a third adult child, Penny, who came into their lives about eight years ago and who was conceived during an affair in his youth. He had not known about Penny until eight years ago. Paul divorced and subsequently remarried when Larry and Delores were quite young and thus they grew up with his second wife, Susan. Paul transferred a significant sum of money to Larry and his wife, Adrian, some years ago towards purchase of their home. They thought, at the time, that it was a gift–an advance on Larry’s inheritance. However, Paul has recently asked them to repay the money within six months so that he can give it to Delores who is struggling financially. Now that the original transfer is being characterized as a loan, it is still unclear what the terms of that loan are. Larry and Adrian are upset by the “demand” to repay but have started making arrangements to repay it by the stated deadline.
In the meantime, Paul’s health seems to be failing and his children are concerned as to his estate plan: Does he have a current will? The last they heard is that his will says that everything he owns is to be transferred to Susan on his death. But what if she remarries after he dies? Does Susan’s will say that everything she receives from Paul is to go to his children on his death? Does Paul intend that his estate is to be transferred to his children after Susan dies? Is Penny to receive anything from Paul’s estate? Is Penny legally entitled to any part of his estate? Should Penny receive the same amount as Larry and Delores who had a relationship with Paul all of their lives? Would Larry and Adrian still be obligated to repay the funds to Paul if he died before they could do so? Susan and Delores have never had a close relationship and thus it is questionable whether Susan would forward the funds that Paul intends to give to Delores if Paul died before the transfer could be completed. Susan does not have any biological children of her own and had never legally adopted Larry and Delores.
Adrian has been encouraging Larry to speak to his father about the issue of his estate plan. However, Larry is hesitant to do so as he feels his father would see it as Larry rushing him to the grave.
In resolving any of these questions, one would first have to determine Paul’s wishes and intentions. Many people have an idea as to their intentions but do not realize that their family situation has complex legal implications until they speak to a lawyer. Of course, one has a better chance of resolving estate issues if one does an estate plan before someone gets sick, incapacitated or dies. If you wish to discuss how a second marriage, step children or gifts/loans between family members will affect your estate plan, please contact Andrea Kelly.
Andrea Kelly, Lawyer, has extensive experience in wills, trusts, powers of attorney and estate administration matters. She provides clients with a high standard of timely professionalism and expertise, incorporating a very thorough fact finding process. This is quite often enlightening for her clients and facilitates individually tailored services. If you would like to know more, feel free to use the easy contact form or read Andrea’s bio.