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Probate Horror Story #6: The Secret Beneficiary

Welcome to the sixth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month the topic focused on what happens when your will is declared invalid. This month we are discussing what could happen if a person has named a secret beneficiary in their will.

Fictional Situation: Cole

  • 56-year-old male
  • Married 32 years
  • 2 young adult children
  • Works in sales, travels often
  • Living a double life with another woman and their young child
  • Owns 2 homes and 4 cars
  • Wrote an individual will and did not share it with his wife

It may sound like a movie plot, but there are actually people like our fictional Cole in the world. Married, but living a double life with another woman, the delicate balancing act that Cole was hiding every day finally came crashing down after his untimely death.

When Cole’s will entered probate, his wife quickly learned that the will he had created left half of his possessions to the other woman in his life. Unfortunately, because the will was drafted by a competent estate planning attorney, his surviving wife had little recourse beyond contesting the will which could prove to be difficult under the circumstances.  Cole’s will could be upheld by the Court and she and her children could lose part of their interest in Cole’s estate to someone that was a stranger to them.

This turn of events may have been avoided if the wife had demanded to see her husband’s will. However, because people are not legally obligated to share their wills with anyone, there may have been no way to avoid this particular horror story.

Red flag: if your spouse will not share the contents of their will with you, they may be hiding something of great significance.

The Denver estate planning attorneys at The Brown Law Firm, LLC have extensive experience in helping people create and contest wills in Colorado. To learn more or to hire a Denver estate planning lawyer, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.

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