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Wills and Estates
Warwick Wealth has selected Appleton – The Fiduciary Specialists to provide Wills and Estate Administration to its clients. This month, Appleton MD, Lauren Hean writes on the challenges of Will drafting and deceased estates administration presented ‘blended families’. (Picture of Lauren Hean)
The controversy around the estate of the late daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, is an unwelcome reminder of the consequences for families of a problematic, unclear, or badly drafted Will. The one thing we can be sure of is that, were he still alive, Elvis would not want there to be disputes and fall outs between his family members, yet this is what the family is faced with today. It is hard to be believe that such disputes can emerge for such a wealthy and famous family, but for all of us ‘normal’ folk, this is completely unnecessary and can be easily avoided. Notably, however, many of us are brought up in, or form part of, a ‘blended family’. In other words, a family in which, for example, there are children from different parents, or simply one in which a spouse is deceased or divorced and remarries a partner with children from a previous marriage.
In addition to the emotional and social issues that may arise in a blended family, all too often this also results in confusion and disputes between heirs of a deceased estate. Consider a scenario, for example, in which a testator divorces his spouse, then remarries IN community of property, but fails to change the beneficiary of his Will and his ex-spouse remains the beneficiary, due to the three-month grace period lapsing. Should he own fixed property, you now have a current spouse entitled to a one-half share of the property in terms of their marital regime and the ex-spouse entitled to a one-half share of the property as beneficiary in the Will.
What then of maintenance claims against the estate by a previously divorced spouse in terms of the divorce order and a current spouse in terms of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990 and how does this rank against the balance of the estate and the inheritance due to an heir?
I could go on (and indeed we see numerous complicate scenarios), but the clear message I wish to convey this month is the absolute importance of proper professional estate planning with your wealth advisor. Off-the-shelf Wills should be left exactly there, on the shelf, particularly if you are part of a blended family. There is no substitute for qualified professional advice, which will save money and heartache for your family in the long run.
Estate planning advice from your wealth specialists is free, so please take it!