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The estate planning issues of others may provide valuable lessons

California residents who are not quite convinced of the importance of estate planning may be interested in a lengthy legal battle involving a family in another state. It took as many as 11 different legal actions to ultimately resolve the issues of a couple after 15 years of marriage. Although this case involves a high-net-worth couple, the same circumstances may befall any other married couple, and the lack of proper estate planning can be detrimental.

The argument arose after the 87-year-old husband contracted Alzheimer's disease and dementia caused him to be incapacitated. The couple had a prenuptial agreement that stated that the wife would get approximately $10 million in the event of the husband's demise, but nothing if they got divorced. But the stipulation was that the husband had to file, otherwise, she would still get the money.

Although the husband's attorney filed for a divorce on his behalf, a court determined that his condition prevented him from knowing what he was signing. Ultimately, an agreement was reached in which the man's children from a previous marriage agreed to give the wife $9.75 million to move on. The agreement also determined the distribution of jewelry, furniture and art pieces, along with their homes in different states.

It was suggested that, had this couple considered the possibility of an incapacitating disease when they did their estate planning, the matter might have been resolved sooner and less costly. An experienced California estate planning attorney can guide couples through the legal proceedings related to wills and trusts and ensure that important issues are addressed. Although it is often a matter rather avoided, preparing for the final stages of the lives of each spouse may provide some measure of assurance and peace.

Source:, "Palm Beach divorce case ends, with warnings for older couples", Jane Musgrave, Nov. 29, 2015

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