On September 21, 2012

After a couple has finalized a divorce is always a very good time to review one’s estate plan. Changing beneficiaries and ensuring that any children are properly provided for will make certain that one’s wishes are carried out upon one’s passing.

Sometimes this is not always possible, especially if one of the divorcing parties dies while in the midst of a divorce.

This is what happened to actor Dennis Hopper. Hopper died in 2010 from prostate cancer when he was 74-years-old. He died before his divorce to his wife of 13 years, Victoria Duffy, was finalized. Together they have a nine-year-old daughter.

After Hopper’s death, Duffy raised a battle to establish her rights as a beneficiary in order to inherit from Hopper’s estate. However, the couple had an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in place before they married which superseded any claims that Duffy might make on Hopper’s estate plan.

As part of Hopper’s estate plan, he designated that the executor of his estate, not his wife, would establish a trust for their daughter’s benefit consisting of more than $3 million in cash and property. According to the court documents, Duffy was not able to overcome the provisions in the prenuptial agreement, and as a result she has been denied any control over the money that was designated for the benefit of her daughter with Hopper.

This story shows how careful estate planning can result in an outcome that is consistent with one’s wishes after he or she passes on, despite family members who might like a different result.

Source: TMZ, “Dennis Hopper 9-Year-Old Daughter Inherits $3 Mil,” Sept. 17, 2012

Categories: Estate Planning

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