Estate planning attorneys always advise clients that life changes can require an estate plan update. One of these changes is a change in relationship status.
One caution involves do-it-yourself estate planning. Things can go awry when you try to do things on your own without the advice of an attorney.
For proof, look no further than the estate of the deceased painter Thomas Kinkade. He died back in April, and he was legally married at the time, though he was estranged from his wife for two years.
The estate plan put in place when the couple was still living together had not been updated.
During the estrangement, Kinkade entered into a relationship with another woman. He was living with her at the time of his death.
Kinkade’s girlfriend was reportedly in possession of two holographic wills (that is, wills he had written on his own) that left her some valuable real property and $10 million that was earmarked for the creation of a museum.
But Kinkade’s wife questioned the validity of these wills. But before the dispute was decided in court, the two women reached an agreement, the details of which have not been made public. Did they settle on terms that Kinkade would have wanted? We will never know.
Although this is not your average estate, it underscores why it is so important to keep in touch with your attorney and make adjustments to your estate plan with the benefit of professional guidance when they become necessary.