When you finally take the plunge and put an initial estate plan in place you may feel as though you’ve completely finished your planning and don’t have to worry about it any longer. Depending on how your life goes after you create the estate plan, this may not be the case. A lot of different life events can create the need for estate plan updates.
It is no secret that a high percentage of marriages end in divorce these days, and if this has happened to you, you likely want to adjust your existing plan. And of course remarriage is also going to require alterations to your existing estate plan.
Most people who remarry want to provide for the new spouse. But what if you didn’t want to? Does that mean that you don’t have to adjust your estate plan? The answer is no, and to find out why look no further than the highly publicized case of Anna Nicole Smith and the estate of J. Howard Marshall.
As you may recall, Smith, the beauty queen and Playboy centerfold model married Marshall when she was 26 years old and the billionaire oil tycoon was 89. This marriage took place in 1994, and Marshall died about 13 months later.
Though he was legally married to Smith at the time of his death his existing will left her nothing. Virtually his entire fortune was directed to one of his two sons. This son, E. Pierce Marshall, and Smith battled the matter out in court until Marshall died in 2006. But the case was still not resolved, and Anna Nicole Smith died the following year while the matter was still in limbo.
Finally, after all those years, the estate was awarded to the heirs of E. Pierce Marshall by the Supreme Court this past summer. As you can see, if you don’t make your wishes clear when your life circumstances change, things can get held up in court for a very long time.