Disinheriting Spouse With a Prenup

Disinheriting Spouse With Prenup

Disinheriting Spouse With a Prenup/Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The Law Does Not Allow You To Use A Will To Disinherit a Spouse

In all states, the law historcially protected surviving spouses because they don’t want a stay at home spouse to be left with nothing when the working spouse passed.

Thus, every state has “elective share” rights for spouses, and these elective share rights kick if the decendent is intestate (without a will) and sometimes with a will to “omitted spouses.

Carefully Drafted Prenup Can Protect Your Inheritance

Prenuptial agreements can dictate what happens to your inheritance in the event of death.  Unlike a will, a prenup can override state law.

Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall

Anna Nicole Smith was 26 years old when she married oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall, age 89.  They were only married for a short 14 months when Marshall died of pnemonia.

Marshall did not name Anna Nicole Smith in his will.  After he died, Smith sued for her elective share.  Marshall also left out his one of his sons, who also sued under the will.  (Smith and Left Out son teamed up to challenge will).  Marshall’s other son opposed their lawsuit.

Everyone sued everyone, using the dead man’s money.

Lawsuits were filed in Texas, California and Louisiana, which took many, many years and millions of legal fees.  It went up to the US Supreme Court (twice!)

Bunch of rich people paying lawyers to fight over money.

One of the Judges in the case (Judge Wood) said it best, “I am not going to spend a lot of time cutting at nits and gnats for people that are fighting over 20 billion, $10 billion that they didn’t earn. They didn’t create this wealth. It was created by a third party, and they’re just fighting over it… They can pay lawyers until hell freezes over. But they don’t want to agree to anything. They just want to pay lawyers.”

An excellent summary of the timeline of this case is found here.

In the end, Anna Nicole Smith lost.  They all died before the final ruling.  (Howard’s son, Anna Nicole Smith, and Anna’s son, Daniel).

All this could have been easily avoided with a valid prenuptial agreement, negotiating what Smith was entitled to upon his death.

You can find the link to the Supreme Court case here: Stern v Marshall.

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