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Despite writing wills, trusts and prenups, heirs may still fight

Complicated family dynamics can sometimes undo even seemingly thorough estate planning. Those who leave wills, trusts and more for the distribution of their estates, likely go to their final rests believing the way is clear for their heirs to benefit from their hard work. Sadly, this is not always the case. A celebrity case taking place south of British Columbia tells a cautionary tale for anyone planning the transfer of his or her estate.

Canadian actor Alan Thicke passed away Dec. 13, 2016. Before he died, Thicke set up a living trust to oversee the handoff of his estate. His two eldest sons are co-trustees. It was Thicke's intention to divide his estate between his three sons and his third wife. 

According to the terms of the trust, the three boys will share Thicke's ranch, 60 percent of his estate and 75 percent of his personal items. The remaining 40 percent of the estate and 25 percent of the personal effects go to his wife, along with a $500,000 life insurance policy and his pension and union benefits. She is also entitled to live at the ranch and keep the furnishings, so long as she pays to maintain the property. Her share of the estate was spelled out in a prenuptial agreement signed in 2005.

Thicke's sons claim his widow wants more than her allotted share, however, and has requested all parties enter family mediation to resolve the issue. They allege she believes there are numerous problems with the prenup and the trust, and are accusing her of using strong-arm tactics to force the matter. Her lawyer has countered their allegations, claiming it is the sons who are using a smear tactic to stay her hand.

Though few people's legal disputes have the power to make tabloid headlines, they can disrupt the process of estate administration. It is an unfortunate reality that squabbles over assets can happen after a leading family member passes away. Careful attention to the crafting of wills and other estate planning measures may reduce the chance, however. With the help of a skilled British Columbia lawyer, such incidents might be avoided.

Source:, "Alan Thicke's sons, widow fight over estate", May 18, 2017

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