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You Can Use a Divorce Decree to Make a Claim Against a Deceased Person’s Estate


If your spouse has children from a previous marriage, you are probably acutely aware that a parent’s financial entanglement with their children never completely ends.  In fact, estate planning is much more complicated in blended families, because you must decide which assets to leave to your current spouse and which to leave to your children from your first marriage, even if you have always kept your financial obligations to the two sides of your family separate.  Even if stepchildren and how much money you give them are a sore subject between you and your spouse, it is important to discuss your estate plan in detail with your spouse, include the probate and non-probate assets you plan to leave to your children.  If your children are minors, this is even more important, because the terms of your divorce decree regarding your financial responsibility to your children still apply.  An estate planning lawyer can be a great help to you during this process.

Diane’s Question: When Divorce Obligations Get Fulfilled in Probate

A Moneyist column dealt with a question from a woman named Diane, who had recently married and become a stepmother to two minor children.  The divorce decree that dissolved his marriage to his first wife specified that he must maintain a life insurance policy valued at $300,000, and he must list the children as beneficiaries until they turn 23.  In fact, her husband never took out such a policy.  He did buy a life insurance policy after he married Diane, but he listed her as the only beneficiary.  He also does not have a will.

Diane asked what would happen if her husband were to die before the children turned 23.  The Moneyist replied that, in the short term, Diane would get the payout from the life insurance policy, as per the terms of the policy.  He advised her, though, that she would “win the fight .. but lose the battle.”  During probate, the children or their mother could make a claim against the estate for $300,000 the required insurance payout amount specified in the divorce decree.  The fact that Diane’s husband doesn’t have a will leaving any other assets to his children that would serve the purpose of the insurance policy makes the children’s claim to the insurance payout even stronger.

This case does a fine job of illustrating the purpose of probate.  People who claim that the deceased person had an outstanding financial obligation to them can attempt to collect that amount during probate.  Diane’s letter leaves several unanswered questions.  Why didn’t Diane’s husband take out a life insurance policy to benefit his children?  Why did he take one out to benefit Diane, and why does she feel so strongly about her stepchildren not getting the money?  Why didn’t he write a will, when he knew his estate could turn into a battleground between his children and their stepmother?

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

You are never too young to write a will, especially if you have children.  Contact Clearwater estate planning lawyer William Rambaum to discuss your questions.




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