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Jerry Lewis surprises some with his estate planning decisions

Celebrities either meticulously plan their estates or shock their fans by leaving no instructions for the distribution of their fortunes. The recent death of comedian and legend Jerry Lewis has not failed to garner surprise and interest from Oklahoma fans and estate planning experts alike. While some in the media report the contents of Lewis's will as shocking, other analysts argue that his actions are not all that unusual.

In the will he executed in 2012, Jerry Lewis named each of his six sons, saying he was intentionally excluding them and their descendants from any claim to his $50 million estate. His sons from his nearly 40-year marriage to his first wife get nothing. Therefore, Lewis's second wife and their adopted 25-year-old daughter are the likely beneficiaries of the massive fortune.

Estate planning experts say this is the most reliable way to disinherit someone, and even the use of the word "intentional" in Lewis's will may prevent any misunderstandings or challenges. On the other hand, Lewis apparently had a child out of wedlock who received no mention in the will. Some speculate that even intentionally disinheriting her would have required Lewis to acknowledge her as his child, which he never did in life despite positive DNA tests.

Disinheriting a child is a personal decision, often the result of a very painful relationship. To ensure that the wishes expressed in one's estate planning are clear, one must be careful of the way the documents are prepared and preserved. The assistance of an Oklahoma estate planning attorney can be invaluable in such circumstances.

Source: wealthmanagement.com, "Jerry's Kids Get Cut Out ... Or Do They?", David H. Lenok, Sept. 22, 2017

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