It may be cliché but there is some truth to the idea of not counting your chickens before they are hatched. A while back, we wrote about a novel called The Nest in which a family of siblings who were counting on an inheritance that they thought was a done deal ended up with a surprise.
Recently, in the news there has been talk of another literary inheritance, but these people are not fictional characters. The presumptive heirs to children’s publishing giant Scholastic were surprised to learn that they were not inheriting personal objects or controlling interest in the company from their father. CEO Richard Robinson did not leave the company to family members but to another Scholastic executive with whom he had a romantic relationship. Each article about the surprise also points out that the executive had also gotten close again to his ex-wife so that she and the children they had together were shocked to learn that they did not inherit. The media has stated that Robinson’s sons were not heavily involved in running the company but that his ex-wife had been very involved in the company during their marriage. Robinson, who took over the company from his father, also had four siblings who were shocked at his decision.
It is likely that there will be some kind of legal action in connection to Robinson’s will. Unlike Robinson who left a will that family members want to contest, it seems celebrities like Aretha Franklin and Prince did not leave clear instructions. These scenarios have also led would-be heirs to take legal action.
We addressed the other end of the spectrum in “Should You Give Your Heirs Copies of Your Will?”. In between telling your potential and presumptive heirs nothing and letting them see your will, is the notion of simply outlining what they can expect. They don’t get to scrutinize your estate planning decisions and you also do not leave a legacy of hurt feelings and confusion.
Even if you are not as wealthy as some of the people mentioned here, you can still consult with a Fee-Only financial planner to outline how you want your wealth distributed and set an example of sound estate planning.