Sometimes personal and family situations can be complicated, and without proper planning, decisions after a death are left in the hands of the court. Recently, in Australia, a judge ruled that a widow would have to pay a portion of her deceased husband’s estate to his mistress – a decision that would be difficult for any widow.
Anthony Francis Bohm and Winifred Bohm had been married for nearly 50 years when Mr. Bohm died of a heart attack in October 2010 at 71 years of age. The couple owned and operated a news agency and a business in antiques, furnishings and property. For 40 years they had worked together in these endeavors, until both retiring in 2003.
Despite their continued working relationship, the couple had separated in 1993. In 1996 Mr. Bohm began living with his girlfriend Dee Morgan. In 1999, Dee Morgan and Mr. Bohm separated because he refused to divorce his wife. However, despite the separation, the couple appeared to continue a physical and emotional relationship until his death in 2010. Because their continued behavior portrayed an ongoing relationship, the judge, Justice Macready, felt Ms. Morgan should be entitled to a portion of the estate.
Mr. Bohm’s estate was valued at nearly $3.5 million. Because Mrs. Bohm was living a comfortable lifestyle while Ms. Morgan was struggling to get by, the judged deemed that she be paid a portion of the estate. It was therefore ordered that Mrs. Bohm make a payment of $225,000 to Ms. Morgan and also that she cover the cost of her legal fees from the funds in the estate. Ms. Morgan’s legal fees cost over $250,000.
Because Mr. Bohm did not create an estate plan, there is no way to know what his wishes would have been in regard to the distribution of his assets. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the court to look at the information and situation and attempt to come to the result deemed by the law and circumstance. Because the court does not know your wishes, there is no guarantee that the assets will be distributed as you would want. The only way to ensure that your estate is distributed how you want and to whom you want is to create a living trust.
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At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.