A case described in the December 2022 issue of The Jerusalem Report caused an uproar in legal circles, and has now been appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel. Our Geyer Law estate planning attorneys found it interesting to speculate how such issues might be handled under Indiana inheritance laws.
At age 24, Daniel wrote a will, intentionally leaving his pregnant girlfriend Rena out of the will, bequeathing all his possessions to his younger brothers and sister. Daniel’s intention was never to have anything to do with either Rena or the baby. Nonetheless, the courts ruled that while the son had been born out of wedlock, Daniel was responsible for child support; he arranged for his bank to send the payments as decreed, maintaining zero contact with either Rena or with his child.
Years later, the now grown son Raphael sought out his biological father. A close relationship between Daniel and Raphael continued over the next several decades. Sixty years after writing that original will, Daniel died, after having amassed a substantial estate. But, although Raphael petitioned the court to ignore the will on the basis that it had long ceased to reflect his father’s wishes, no othr will was found. The judges ruled that the last will a person writes remains valid until death.
Under Indiana law, how might the ruling have been different?
- In Indiana, an individual cannot write a will “on his own”. Two unrelated witnesses are required to validate the document.
- Son Rafael would have had standing to contest the will on the grounds that he was not in existence at the time the will was written, and the will itself did not contemplate him in any way.
This is a fascinating story, and it has a moral – it is vital that you not only create an estate plan, but that you regularly review that plan every few years. Even if no major life changes have occurred, the laws may have changed, and, even more important, you may have changed your mind about what you want to do with your assets.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer