Tennessee readers may be aware that Gary Coleman, famed for his role in the television series "Different Strokes," died in 2010. Shortly after his death, two separate individuals battled over estate administration issues that were recently resolved in a court of law. This battle resulted in one will being held valid over another.
Like those for people who have died in Tennessee, when Gary Coleman passed away, the estate administration process was started. In many instances, this includes a probate of a will or distribution of a trust. In the Coleman case, the court first had to decide which of the wills that he left behind was valid. This question arose due to the fact that Coleman apparently had authored a handwritten will that changed the executor of his estate.
The handwritten will was created by the actor while he was married. However, he was divorced from his ex-wife in 2008, two years prior to his death. The first executed will that had been created prior to his relatively short marriage named the CEO of his corporation the executor of the estate not the ex-wife as noted in the handwritten will.
After a contentious battle, the court held that the first executed will was not only a valid estate-planning document, but that was not superseded by the second will, which was deemed invalid. Accordingly, the CEO of the corporation was determined to be responsible for estate administration. This decision came due to the fact that the Judge agreed with the CEO that the ex-wife and the actor did not maintain a common law marriage after their divorce, and thus the handwritten will was invalidated at the time of their divorce.
Estate administration issues can arise in many different situations. This is true when, as in the Coleman case, a person makes a codicil or a new will but does not follow all required procedures or other circumstances such as divorce intervene. The resulting confusion among proposed beneficiaries and executors could land the parties in court pleading their case for a judge to decide. Estate planning attorneys are not only good at writing down the intent of an individual, but they also have a complete understanding of the requirements of the law and can draft documents that will hold up in a court of law.
Source: Lee Enterprises, "Gary Coleman's ex-wife loses bid for control over his estate," Jim Dalrymple, May 15, 2012