Category Archives: Disinheriting Family Members

A Post-Mortem, Spousal Surprise: Can My Husband Write Me Out of His Will?

Imagine this potentially devastating situation.  Your spouse unexpectedly dies.  You find his will and discover, shockingly, that he left everything to his adult son (or his mistress)!  Is there anything you can do? This situation commonly arises when a husband and wife are separated but not yet divorced. Under Virginia law, a spouse possesses certain rights to what is known as the elective share.  Think of the elective share as a floor for a spouse’s inheritance.  It can be invoked even if the deceased spouse writes the surviving spouse out of his or her will. Under current law, a surviving …

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Who Would Inherit Darth Vader’s Estate?

Who would be the beneficiary of the estate of Darth Vader? The answer is more than just an exercise in Star Wars fiction; in fact, the answer can teach us important lessons about estate disputes in our real world. In case you did not read my earlier blog post, in which I asked the same question about Han Solo’s estate, you can find that post here. Note: for those who are not familiar with Star Wars, yet who want to follow along with the discussion below, it’s important to known that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same person (Anakin …

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The Fictional Fight Over Han Solo’s Estate

Who would be the beneficiary of the estate of Han Solo?  Star Wars is obviously a fictional universe, and there is no indication in Episode 7 (or any other canon material that I’m aware of) that speaks to whether Han Solo had a will or not. Nevertheless, it’s both fun and educational to analyze the answer, because if the same laws in effect in Virginia were in effect in the Star Wars universe, Han Solo’s death would likely have set off a wave of litigation among numerous characters in a galaxy far, far away. First, let’s consider what assets Han …

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Top 10 Ways To Be Disinherited (And How To Avoid That) (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in the series of the top 10 factors that I’ve seen that lead to people being disinherited from a relative’s or friend’s estate plan. In Part 1, I discussed 5 of the 10 factors, and the following round out the final 5 factors. Knowing these factors will hopefully help ensure that you not only avoid being disinherited, but perhaps, more importantly, help ensure that you have deeper and more meaningful relationships with family and friends: 6) File a Guardianship and Conservatorship Action Against a Relative There are two main reasons why a person would file a …

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Top 10 Ways To Be Disinherited (And How To Avoid That) (Part 1)

I’ve handled over 100 estate disputes, and based upon my experience the following are 5 of the top 10 factors that I’ve seen that lead to people being disinherited from a relative’s or friend’s estate plan. I’ll follow this blog post with another one in the next week or two discussing the final 5 factors. Knowing these factors will hopefully help ensure that you not only avoid being disinherited, but perhaps, more importantly, help ensure that you have deeper and more meaningful relationships with family and friends: 1) Don’t Visit or Call Your Relative This is far and away the …

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Virginia Supreme Court Issues New Ruling Regarding Missing Wills

The Virginia Supreme Court recently issued a ruling relating to missing wills and the legal standard courts must apply when an original will cannot be found and therefore an executor seeks to probate a copy of the will. While the case does not necessarily make new law, it does clarify that the proponent of the non-original will is not required to prove why the original will was lost. First, some background: under Virginia law, a party seeking to probate a will must probate the original will, and not a photocopy. In the vast majority of instances, this does not pose …

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B.B. King’s Estate: Murder Allegations and the Slayer Rule

Two of B.B. King’s children have recently alleged that King’s business manager and personal assistant poisoned him prior to his death on May 14, 2015. The allegations surrounding the blues legend’s death implicate the slayer rule: a rule in the vast majority of states that provides that if a person is convicted of murdering a testator (the person who executed a will), the murderer cannot inherit any portion of the testator’s estate, but rather is deemed to have predeceased the testator for purposes of the distribution of the testator’s estate.

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The Ernie Banks Will Dispute Highlights Potential Concerns About Caregivers

The famous baseball player Ernie Banks was known for his positivity and his love of baseball (captured in his iconic phrase “Let’s play two,” referring to his desire to play a doubleheader every day). It’s ironic, then, that his estate has been the subject of a bitter dispute between his family and his caretaker. CNN.com Reports: “Banks family attorney Mark Bogen said Banks’ agent, Regina Rice, had the octogenarian sign a new will three months before his death. Our family thought that Ms. Rice was helping our father and watching over him while he was in Chicago,” son Joey Banks …

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Recognizing Signs of Undue Influence

Undue influence over elderly persons, disabled persons, and others is a large problem, which will only get worse as American society increasingly ages and the baby boomer generation prepares to transition large sums of wealth via their estate plans. It’s important for every family member, friend, neighbor, business colleague, etc., to be aware of the signs of undue influence so that they can protect their family members, friends, and associates. The law in Virginia (like the law in most states) defines undue influence as influence “sufficient to destroy [the] free agency” of a person. Jarvis v. Tonkin, 238 Va. 115, …

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Why You Should Avoid Filming a Will Signing

With few exceptions, filming or recording a will signing is usually a bad idea. Nevertheless, some estate planning attorneys still film certain will signings under the assumption that videotaping a will signing will provide tangible “proof” that the person executing the will was not suffering from a lack of testamentary capacity at the time of execution. There are several reasons why, in most instances, this is a bad idea. First some background: in order for a will to be valid, the person executing the will (often referred to as the “testator”) must have “testamentary capacity” (which, in most states, is …

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