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Probate process makes celebrity's will contents known to public

Jerry Lewis was a popular entertainer that appealed to individuals across different generations. Michigan fans of the recognizable star may have been surprised to learn that he passed away just last month from heart failure. Lewis was 91-years-old at the time of this death and left behind a wife, six children born from a prior marriage and an adopted daughter from his current marriage.

All of Lewis's children were adults at the time of his death but they were not all treated equally when the entertainer's last will and testament was revealed during the probate process. Pursuant to Lewis's will, his children from his first marriage were intentionally denied any inheritance from his estimated $50 million estate.

Through a will a person may decide who has rights to collect inheritance benefits from their estate. If a person does not have a will the laws of intestacy will generally permit a decedent's close relatives, such as their children, spouses and parents, to be beneficiaries if there are inheritable assets in the estate. As demonstrated by the actions Lewis chose to take in the drafting of his will, a person may also proactively limit which relatives are eligible to inherit when the will creator dies.

Had Lewis elected to create a trust and move the contents of his estate into that form of planning tool instead of a will his desire to disinherit some of his children may not have become public knowledge. Readers of this estate planning blog are encouraged to discuss their will, trust and general estate planning concerns with attorneys who work in the field to avoid preventable errors and ensure that their estate planning goals are accomplished.

Source: forbes.com, "Jerry Lewis Disinherited Five Of His Kids, And Here's Why We Know," Mark Eghrari, Sept. 27, 2017

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