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Friday, September 22, 2017

Jerry Lewis left all 6 children from his first marriage out of his will

Recently a number of online newspapers have been talking about the estate of the late Jerry Lewis, a well-known comedian and actor who passed away at the age of 91. Mr. Lewis had been married for many years and had 6 children from his first marriage, one of whom predeceased  him. He had one adopted daughter from his second marriage.

In the will, Mr. Lewis didn't just "leave out" his children from the first  marriage; he made a statement in the will confirming his intention that none of them (nor their descendants) would receive anything from his estate. There could have been a dozen reasons but they were not mentioned in the will itself. Click here to read an article from the Daily Mail with more details.

Does the reason he left them out matter? Generally speaking, no it doesn't matter. Parents are not obligated to give anything from their estates to their children who are financially independent adults. Nobody's legal rights have been violated here, though I expect the children would be curious as to his reasons.

Most of the time, when I am preparing a will for a parent who wants to exclude someone, it is one child only. Usually there has been some kind of falling-out with that child, or simply a long term estrangement during which the child and the parent drifted apart. The article I referenced above refers to the omission of the children as a "snub", says that Mr. Lewis "had strong words for his children", and suggested that this happened because of a personal grudge. However, no evidence of any of that was offered, so it seems like irresponsible gossip-mongering to me. For all we know, he might just have felt that the best way to maximize the value of his estate was to keep the assets together. Not every unusual will provision arises because of grudges.

In any event, it appears that Mr. Lewis left a valid will, and perhaps we'll hear more about this estate in the future.

The photo above shows Jerry Lewis, his first wife, and his children of the first marriage. and is credited to ullstein bild via Getty Images.

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