Case Study: The Sandersons Lose a Legacy

May 11, 2023
Estate Planning
Case Study - The Sandersons Lose a Legacy | AmeriEstate Legal Plan

The financial aspects of a divorce are often equally as challenging as the emotional fallout. The decisions a couple makes when splitting up can impact future generations. Even amicable splits don’t always go the way those involved expect at the time. The Sanderson children found this out the hard way.

A Place To Call Home

Joe and Malinda had been married for 31 years. They’d had many ups and downs but cared for one another and were committed to raising their three children together. When the two were expecting their first child, they decided they wanted their kids to have fond memories of growing up in a home. They wanted them to feel grounded and rooted in traditions and a sense of place. They found and moved into an ideal childhood home.

An Amicable End

About a year before their youngest was out of the house, Joe and Malinda approached the subject of divorce. They agreed to wait until their youngest went to college before beginning the process. The divorce was amicable.

Joe bought Malinda’s share of the house because she wanted to move out of state. Though the children were understandably upset by this turn of events, their parents’ continued friendliness with one another made it easier, and they still had their childhood home to return to during school breaks and holidays.

A Change of Circumstances

A few years later, Joe remarried. Joe’s new Wife, Angela had a son, Tony. Tony moved in to help around the property, and they decided to put him on the title so that he wouldn’t be forced to move if anything happened to them. Joe was uncomfortable with the decision because he’d intended the house to go to his three children, but he took solace in leaving the home to his kids in his will. Unfortunately he didn’t consult an AmeriEstate attorney beforehand; otherwise he would have found out that a will was insufficient to preserve his children’s inheritance.

Joe also assumed he’d have time to investigate his options later. He never got around to it. Though his stepson eventually moved out and hired people to help his mom and stepdad, Tony’s name remained on the title. When Joe passed after a heart attack, the children discovered they’d lost the legacy their dad intended to leave them. Their stepmother and stepbrother now owned the house and neither intended to turn it over to Joe’s children.

No Way Out

The Sanderson children had no options available to them. With the stepson and stepmother on the title, they no longer had any recourse for reclaiming their childhood home. Joe’s will was not legally binding.

If Joe and Malinda had arranged to place the home in an irrevocable trust for their children, the outcome would have been different. The trust would have owned the house until a specified time, such as upon Joe’s demise. He would not have been able to add his new wife’s or stepson’s name to the title. When Joe passed away, the children would have taken possession of the house, inheriting the legacy he and Malinda wanted to leave them.

Get Help With Asset Allocation

Estate planning can help you and your heirs avoid the same misfortune the Sanderson children faced. An AmeriEstate attorney can help you find a legal solution that fits your needs. Get in touch today to learn more about our services.