Who can make an estate claim on your estate depends on your relationship with the deceased, and it also depends on what arrangements you make prior to your death to make provision for family members in your will. One of the worst things you can do is not to make a will at all, as the case involving the deceased superstar Prince, demonstrates.
An Estate Claim Over Prince’s Fortune
Since Prince’s death, a large collection of hopefuls have made an estate claim on his $300 million fortune. A Minnesota judge overseeing Prince’s estate has recently narrowed down the wide pool of potential heirs for the late superstar’s fortune, ruling out nearly 30 claimants while ordering genetic testing for six purported family members.
Carver County Judge Kevin Eide’s order requires genetic testing for Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, plus three half-siblings: Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and John Nelson. Eide also ordered testing for Brianna Nelson, who has claimed to be Prince’s niece, and possible grand-niece Victoria Nelson. The pair has claimed Briana Nelson’s father was Prince’s half-brother. The process of determining his heirs and parcelling out his estate has fallen to the courts because he had no known children and left no will.
Eide’s order drastically limits who may benefit from Prince’s fortunes or gain control of his legacy. Among those excluded from potential heirship in Eide’s order are five unidentified people with shaky claims that Prince was their biological father. For example, one woman who said she was adopted claimed Prince was her father because “based upon the general description of the lifestyle of her biological parents, her fascination with the Decedent and physical similarities.” The order also tosses out a handful of claimants who alleged that Prince’s father was someone other than John L. Nelson, who is listed in court records as Prince’s father.
Another claimant who lodged an unsuccessful estate claim includes a professed secret wife who said the CIA had classified their marriage records as top secret. Also dismissed were a batch of claims by several people who described themselves as descendants of a sister of Prince’s great-grandfather.
If Prince also left no will and no surviving offspring of his own, as appears to be the case, his estate under Minnesota law would be apportioned in equal shares to his siblings and the nearest surviving descendants of any siblings now dead. Siblings and half-siblings are treated the same. The special administrator of the estate, Bremer Trust, has said it was in the process of determining the fair-market value of Prince’s estate.
An Estate Claim In A Blended Family
On the other hand, you may have a will but be living in a complicated blended-family circumstance. Blended families make estate planning more difficult and litigation is more likely.
The widow of former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson has asked a court to dismiss an estate claim filed by his two adult sons, saying their allegations of misconduct are a “gross misrepresentation.” The dismissal request says that Jeri Thompson, as executor of her husband’s estate, “made but one change — a change to a contingent beneficiary designation on two term life insurance policies.That change had no effect on the rights of Plaintiffs, because they were not primary or contingent beneficiaries of the policies, either before or after the change.”
Fred Thompson’s two adult sons from his first marriage, Tony and Dan Thompson, filed the estate claim last week against Jeri Thompson and the estate. The lawsuit accuses her of exercising “undue influence” in a flurry of last-minute changes to the estate. Their suspicions appear to have been aroused by a bill showing $40,000 in legal work done on behalf of Thompson’s estate in the month before his death.
In the latest filing, Jeri Thompson said that the only change was to add their youngest son, Samuel, as a 50 percent contingent beneficiary along with his sister, Hayden.
Jeri Thompson was and remained the 100 percent primary beneficiary on the policies, the motion says. The case will be decided by the court, but this scenario is common. An estate battle between children from the first relationship and a second spouse erupts because the deceased has failed to make clear instructions for the estate, or has decided to cut certain family members out of the will.
Can You Cut Family Members Out Of Your Will?
In Queensland, a will maker ought to make adequate provision for the following persons:
· Former spouse (in limited circumstances);
· A dependent (in limited circumstances).
In other words, you really don’t have the freedom to cut out these members of the family. They could legitimately make an estate claim – called a family provision claim – to your will and win. It is at the discretion of the court as to whether or not family provision claims are successful. Not every applicant will be successful and not every applicant is eligible. The key is to seek advice from an expert in succession law.
The important thing to remember with family provision claims is that the test is not to establish what the deceased intended under the will. The court must simply decide whether or not provision ought to be made to the applicant based on a number of things:
Whether any provision you have already received is adequate for your proper maintenance, education and advancement in life.
Competing claims of other eligible persons or beneficiaries. You may not be the only person who was cut out of the will.
The nature and duration of your relationship with the person who has passed away.
Your financial resources and earning capacity.
The size of the estate. For example, you may pass all the criteria to make a successful family provision claim, but if there is only $20,000.00 in the estate, then there is very little scope for a Court to order provision.
The financial circumstances of people you cohabit with, such as your spouse or de facto.
Contributions you made, both financial and non-financial, to the person who has passed away.
Any provision the deceased person made for you during their lifetime.
The area of law surrounding family provision claims is complex. Advice should always be sought urgently as there are tight time frames. In Queensland, you only have 9 months from the date of death and notification must be made within 6 months from date of death.
To avoid the expense and delays that surround a messy court battle over your estate, the key is to plan your estate thoughtfully. Seek advice from a specialist who can advise you of all the issues you need to be aware of, particularly if your circumstances are less than straight foward. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Contact us today!