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On the Estrangement of Adult Children and their Disinheritance

The Story of Dr. M.

This time I have chosen to share with you a real case study (with minor changes in details, to preserve the clients' privacy), in order to illustrate the importance of writing a Will, especially when tensions are present within the family.

The first time I met Dr. M and his lovely wife was several years ago. They hired my services because they had received a Claim. Dr. M's children from his first marriage had filed a lawsuit to receive their share (1/4) in the apartment where the couple resided with their mutual children. During our meeting, Dr. M. and his wife told me how more than 20 years ago, Dr. M. suddenly lost his first wife, and was left alone with three little children. A young woman who came to help him with his kids fell in love with them, and later – with him. They got married and extended their family. For many years, they were living together as one big happy family.

But then, five years ago, when the children from the first marriage had left their nest, they gradually became estranged with the rest of the family, until they had cut all ties. They had even filed to receive their share in the family apartment, threatening to file additional lawsuits against the family. In court, I managed to keep the parents and their mutual children at the apartment, and purchase the share of the children from the first marriage from them at market value.

The conduct of the older children was extremely painful to the couple and their family. They wanted to make sure that whatever is left from their property, will remain for the hands of their mutual children. This necessitated writing Wills disinheriting the children from the first marriage. The couple knew that those children were expected to oppose the Wills, so they wanted to assure that everything is done by the book, so their desires would be respected. Similarly, Dr. M. wanted to guarantee that in case he needs a legal guardian, his wife will take this position without any intervention of his estranged children. This became an acute concern, as recently Dr. M. discovered that he is terminally ill and that his time on earth is limited.

I laid out Wills and continuous power of attorneys, that would be "air tight," and ascertain that the children from the first marriage will not be able to put their hands upon the couple's property, and will not be able to interfere with medical decision concerning their father. This assignment required skill, professionalism, and sensitivity. I prepared notarized Wills for the couple. Such Wills are considered most reliable, and the ability to oppose it in court in retrospect is limited. To be on the safe side, I backed Dr. M.'s Will with a psychiatric evaluation, to preclude any post factum claim by the estranged children, that due to his medical condition, he was not fit to sign the Will. Additionally, Dr. M. signed a continuous power of attorney, appointing his wife as his legal guardian. We specifically indicated the estranged children as persons precluded from receiving any information concerning the power of attorney. I backed everything up by affidavits of Dr. M., his wife, and other persons who were involved in the process, and supported the affidavits with further documentation (including video) – all to ensure that Dr. M.'s wishes will be respected.

Here are some lessons I learned from this true case:

  • 1.Life is unpredictable. Sometimes the people who are most close to us, including our own children, may hurt us. It is our right to make sure that such behavior does not go unpunished, and that we bequeath our property to those who deserve it.
  • 2.If and when we decide to disinherit someone close to us, especially a child or children, it is imperative to do everything BY THE BOOK. Wills which disinherit a child or a spouse tend to be contested in court. The courts of family affairs tend to strive for settlements, in most cases against the wishes of the deceased person.
  • 3.It is important that someone you truly trust will make decisions for you in case you become incapacitated. Dr. M. chose his wife, whom he trusts, and made sure that his estranged children, will not try to meddle with his affairs even before his death. This demonstrates the importance of conducting a continuous power of attorney.
  • 4.Prevention is the cheapest cost-avoider. Try to maintain good relations with the people you hold dear. The relationship with anyone, even with our children, are never guaranteed, and are sometimes beyond our control.

For initial complementary advice please contact Dr. Guy Carmi, Attorney-at-Law and Notary, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 911 1034; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

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Monday, 26 September 2022

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