Divorce ends a marriage, but not the relationship between a parent and a child. Most divorced parents intend to be an active part of their children’s lives, supporting them both emotionally and financially if they are able.

And despite remarrying and having additional children, most parents still want children from a previous relationship to be beneficiaries of their estates. That’s why the story of a girl I’ll call “Rose” is so heartbreaking.

Her father “Jack” divorced her mother, remarried and had two more children with his new wife. But Jack continued to have a good relationship with Rose, and was involved in her life.

Before traveling on a last minute business trip, he hastily made a holographic will giving all his worldly possessions to his wife. Jack died. His holographic will was declared valid, and his wife was named as the sole beneficiary of his estate.

Perhaps Jack believed that his wife would help Rose financially. But as the sole beneficiary of his estate, his wife has complete control over Jack’s assets. She has the power to decide how the assets will be used and who will benefit from them. She has chosen not to share any of Jack’s estate with Rose.

If Jack had consulted an attorney, he could have made a will that set aside a portion of his assets in trust for Rose’s benefit. Rose heads off to college this year. The trust assets could have been used to help Rose pay for her college education. But by taking his estate planning into his own hands, he disinherited his young daughter instead.

It probably wasn’t what Jack intended to do, but Rose is living with the consequences of that mistake.

This article was initially published on April 14, 2010, and updated on July 14, 2021.

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