Estate Planning: Lawyer Regrets Divorcing Without Inheritance Agreement for Kids

By John O’Grady, O’Grady Law Group

Divorce is difficult, and even successful lawyers sometimes jeopardize their children’s inheritance by failing to make adequate agreements about it as a part of the divorce settlement. Attorney Debra Karlstein is a recent example. She divorced Hank Goldsmith, a big-name Manhattan trial lawyer, in 2010, alleging that he squandered vast sums of money on alcohol, cocaine, strippers and prostitutes.

Considering her ex-husband’s reckless lifestyle, the most predictable outcome was that he would not leave his entire estate to their three young sons when he died. In 2012, Goldsmith was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and immediately married his second wife, Deborah Lee, and revised his will to provide $1.5 million to Lee at the expense of his three young sons.

Following Goldsmith’s death, Karlstein filed a lawsuit accusing Lee of bringing estate lawyers to Goldsmith for the signing of a new will as he lay heavily medicated on his hospital deathbed. This expensive litigation is likely to continue for years.

It’s essential to consider more than just child support during divorce negotiations. Contractual provisions can be included to ensure the inheritance rights of the kids.

About the author:

ogradyJohn O‘Grady, O’Grady Law Group, APC,  was the 2012 chair of BASF’s Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Section.