Click below for a PDF on the 10 Estate Planning Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

4. Not Updating Your Plan During Divorce (Barry White)

When Barry White died in 2003 he was survived by 1 ex-wife, 1 soon-to-be ex-wife (a divorce action was pending), a girlfriend with whom he resided for several years, at least 9 children, and an estate plan that by most accounts had not been updated for several years.

Barry White’s will left the bulk of his estate to his wife, Glodean, with whom a divorce action was pending.  A pending divorce action that does not result in a final judgment of divorce does not sever the legal rights of a spouse. Barry White’s girlfriend, Katherine Denton, was not mentioned in the will and she received nothing.  Katherine filed a lawsuit against the estate reportedly claiming that Barry White told her that she would be cared for throughout her life and that she would be able to live in their Los Angeles home.

The problem was that while Barry White may have made promises to Katherine, he did not update his estate plan to give effect to those promises.  The estate with an estimated value of $20 million went primarily to Glodean.

Divorcing spouses must give special attention to their estate planning documents while their divorce is pending.  Issues such as power of attorney, health care representative, executor, trustee should be rethought and addressed along with the dispositive provisions of the plan.