Last month, iconic comedian Jerry Lewis passed away at the age of 91. As is often the case when it comes to high-profile celebrities and entertainers, his death made national headlines and many people were saddened by his passing. However, his six children may feel something other than sadness, as it was recently revealed that Lewis explicitly excluded them from being beneficiaries of his estate.
As noted in reports on the exclusion , there was a clause in Lewis’ will that he was intentionally leaving his six kids from his first marriage — and their descendants — no benefits. Instead, Lewis’ widow will inherit everything, and their adopted daughter is next in line. There are a few things New Yorkers can learn from this situation, should they be considering a similar decision.
- Make your intentions known clearly. Leaving someone out of the will can be interpreted as an oversight. If you want to ensure that a child or anyone else does not receive any assets or benefits, then you would be wise to say so in your will.
- Ensure your will is valid and enforceable. If someone is able to successfully challenge a will based on claims of unconscionability, fraud or undue influence, then the terms established in that document can be subject to dismissal.
- Consider steps to keep the terms private. Finances and family dynamics are often intensely personal, and estate planning decisions like disinheritance can be embarrassing and shine an unwanted spotlight on the lives of the people involved. You can keep estate-related matters private by avoiding probate and establishing trusts.
Disinheriting someone is not a small decision in most cases, so it is crucial that you think carefully about this piece of your estate plan. If you are considering this, then you would be wise to discuss this option as well as others with your estate planning attorney. With legal guidance, you can ensure your wishes are documented, enforceable and carried out as you intend.