Leaving the Ex In Control – An Estate Plan Nightmare

When someone passes away, there is an assumption many people make that the family and friends of a decedent will be left in charge of their deceased loved one’s estate so they can divide any possessions appropriately. Unfortunately, this assumption is not accurate. There are rules and regulations in each state concerning the distribution of assets maintained in an estate and who is ultimately empowered to make those decisions. If you do not have an estate plan, or you have an outdated estate plan, you are heightening the risk that someone you are not very close to, or may even dislike, will be left in charge of managing your assets.


Take, for example, the tragic and sudden passing of CNN host Anthony Bourdain. It turns out that his estranged wife, MMA fighter Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, is empowered to decide whether his remains are transported back to the United States since she is legally the next of kin.  Mr. Bourdain and Mrs. Busia-Bourdain decided to separate in 2016, but their divorce was not officially finalized before his sudden death, and the funeral arrangements for the star are being held up in the process, according to news reports.This caused Mr. Bourdain’s mother to speak out concerning the frustration she, and other loved ones have felt, as a result of the delay. To add to the awkwardness, Mr. Bourdain was in a relationship with an actress named Asia Argento at the time of his passing. Depending on the specific terms of Mr. Bourdain’s estate plan, assuming he had one, there is a chance his significant other at the time of his passing could be left with nothing.

Importance of Updating Your Estate Plan

The fact that Mr. Bourdain’s estranged wife could very well be empowered to manage his entire estate is a prime example of why it is so important to be proactive and update your estate plan if you decide to separate from your spouse and are definitely moving forward with a divorce.

If you pass on before the divorce is finalized and you do not have a formal estate plan, your spouse will likely be entitled to a significant portion of your assets. This remains true even if you have living children, living parents, living siblings, or living nieces or nephews. If you have life insurance policies and retirement accounts, they are controlled by your beneficiary designations. As a result, if your estranged spouse is the designated beneficiary, they will receive the payout from those policies.

Take Action

If you do not want your estranged spouse to be involved in your estate, you need to either amend your estate plan or create a new plan. You also need to modify the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Speak to an Experienced Trust and Estate Planning Attorney Today

As you can see, when a major life event occurs (e.g., separating from a spouse), you need to take action sooner rather than later to ensure all of your vital trust and estate planning documents are in order and properly updated. This can be accomplished most effectively with the guidance and assistance of an experienced trust and estate lawyer. Contact InSight Law to schedule a meeting today. Our team of professionals is here to help.