I find it interesting to read the wills of famous people. What I’ve seen is some of them prepared better than others. Some have handwritten wills that have scratch and scrabble. Others have nice typed letters. The most recent will I reviewed was that of Frank Sinatra. Yes, Ole Blue Eyes, himself!
There were a couple of things I found interesting in Frank Sinatra’s will. One is that he gave his current wife all his rights to licensing and 25% of his royalties and various other pieces of property. However, he conditioned it on them being married at the time of his death. That is not uncommon. The interesting part is he also made “living together” at the time of his death a condition for her to inherit the property.
I find this interesting and smart. Some couples separate but do not finalized the divorce. Some couples wait months or years to finalize it. As I recently blogged, Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of The Cars, was separated from his wife of 28 years at the time of his death. They had been separated for three years but arguably were still living together. However, he changed his will and left her nothing because he claimed she had abandoned him.
I had a friend who was in his early 50’s when he died tragically in a car wreck. He had been divorced for over 10 years. However, he had been living with a girlfriend for many years. Unfortunately, he did not update the will that he had drafted when he was married. He did not even update his emergency contact information at work. Therefore, his ex-wife was given the death notification instead of his live-in girlfriend. In some states, his ex-wife would have inherited his property.
In Texas, there is some protection for those who fail to remove their ex-spouse’s name from their will. The Texas courts will read all provisions in a will in favor of a former spouse as being null and void. Exceptions have been made. To be safe, you should consider changing your will after the divorce. You may also want to change your will during the pending divorce like Ric Ocasek.
The second interesting thing I found in Frank Sinatra’s will was that he had a “no contest” clause. The clause states that any beneficiary or legal heir of his will shall be disinherited if they contest the will, claim entitlement to any asset under a written or oral contract, challenge the appointment of the executor or object to the interpretation of his will adopted by his executor. If you want to discourage a person from contesting your will, you should give them some property under the will that they do not want to lose. Otherwise, they have nothing to lose by contesting the will.
There are some lessons to be learned from Frank Sinatra who lived the words he sang -- “I did it my way.”
For free consultation about your estate planning needs, contact the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr., PLLC at 210-874-5700 or hspires@TexasWillsLawyer.com.