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Probate Horror Story #14: Multiple Marriages

Welcome to the 14th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month our topic covered the unlucky estate fate of a small family that passes away without a will. This month we are focusing on how inheritance can be affected when there are multiple marriages in the mix.

Fictional Situation: Arnold

  • 2 ex-wives
  • 2 children with each ex-wife (total of 4 children with ex-wives)
  • Currently married
  • 2 children with his current wife
  • Created a will when married to first wife, never updated it

Over the past 15 years, Arnold has been in several relationships. Having met his first wife in college, they quickly started a family and realized that they needed to create a will to protect their assets and provide for their 2 children. However, life often throws relationships curve balls and Arnold and his first wife divorced. In a whirlwind romance, he found the new love of his life and remarried, again quickly having 2 more children with his new wife. Another curve ball, another divorce.

Arnold was not one to remain single for long. He remarried for a third time and had two more children with his new wife. Over the years, taking time to update his will was always placed on the To Do list but pushed down as something that could be handled later. After all, with soccer games, dance recitals, work pressures and keeping up with alimony payments, Arnold simply didn’t have much free time.

Unfortunately, time was not on Arnold’s side. After his untimely death, some of his extended family quickly learned that Arnold had never made provisions for them in his will. The will he created when he was married to his first wife along with the Colorado Statutes became the controlling documents when it came to distributing Arnold’s estate.  Under Colorado law, an ex-spouse is automatically disinherited once a Court enters a divorce decree.  Additionally, there are statutes in place that protect children who are born subsequent to the execution of the will.  His current wife has various rights she can utilize to make elections against the estate.  Since all of the children are minors, the minors’ mothers are the individuals responsible for making decisions on the minors’ behalf.  This made for a very sticky situation.  Each of Arnold’s wives hired attorneys to ensure their children received their share of his estate.  As you can imagine, this could cause an enormous rift in the families and an inevitable court battle during probate. Court costs alone could eat away at the value of the estate and ultimately leave all the families with very little. The legal battles among the three families would be extensive and expensive, creating bad blood among the half-siblings that could last a lifetime.

The lesson learned here is that any time you have a life change, it is absolutely imperative that you revisit your will and make any necessary changes to reflect your new situation. Situations such as marriages, divorces, deaths, births, etc. will most likely impact how you want to revise your will. This is not a fun activity for most people, but it is an important step to take to save your family heartache, stress and money down the line.

Whether you need help drafting a will in Colorado or want to update a will you currently have, contact the Denver will lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Call (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to protect your assets and provide fully for your entire family.

Watch for our blog next month for the next installment in our Probate Horror Story Series.