Estate law does not exist in a vacuum. It interacts with other areas of the law, and often those other areas of the law actually end up controlling the way that an estate is distributed. A common area of law that controls what happens with an estate is family law. Dennis Hopper’s estate offers a good example of how this works.
When Hopper passed away in 2010, he was involved in an extremely acrimonious divorce. The divorce was not final before Hopper passed away. Under ordinary circumstances, Hopper’s wife would have a right to a large portion of his estate. However, Hopper and his wife had a pre-nuptial agreement that stated that his wife could not control or have any access to his daughter’s Trust. As it turned out, all of Hopper’s property had been placed in the Trust for his daughter. Thus, the daughter inherited everything and the wife got nothing.
Make sure that you tell your estate planning attorney what other legal agreements you have. The attorney will need to decide if those agreements could impact your estate plan and draft your plan accordingly.
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