2. Not Updating Your Plan When You Have Children (Heath Ledger)

Heath Ledger was a young father when he died in 2008 at the age of 28.  Ledger had a will (which is unusual for most people under 30).  The problem was that he executed his will before his daughter, Matilda, was born.  It was reported that Ledger’s will divided his estimated $15-30 million estate between his parents and his siblings.

While most jurisdictions allow a parent to disinherit a child, the laws are different when a parent omits a child from a will written before that child was born.

The problem with Heath Ledger's estate plan

In New Jersey (which has no ties to the late actor’s estate), the law provides that if a testator fails to provide for a child born or adopted after the execution of his or her will, that the child has rights to a portion of the estate under certain circumstances.  These circumstances are spelled out in N.J.S.A. 3B:5-16 (Omitted Children).

Thankfully, Ledger’s family banded together and worked out a solution where Matilda would inherit her father’s estate—likely in a trust managed for her benefit.  Not all families are this gracious and understanding in times of great personal grief.

How long has it been since you reviewed your estate plan with an attorney?

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