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Will Marlins pitcher’s death result in estate dispute?

Florida baseball fans remember that, last September, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident near Miami Beach, Florida. Though Fernandez was unmarried at the time of his death, his girlfriend was pregnant with their child. She was not, however, named as a beneficiary on Fernandez’s trust. Rather, his mother was named as the sole beneficiary.

Fernandez’s trust is reportedly worth millions of dollars, so both his girlfriend and their child stand to lose a lot for not having been named as beneficiaries. It isn’t clear whether Fernandez wanted it that way. Although there is no indication that there is a legal battle over the trust, it is possible that there could be a fight over whether Fernandez intended to exclude his child from the trust. 

Under Florida law, a child who is born or adopted after the execution of a will, known as a “pretermitted” child, is entitled to a portion of the estate equal to what he or she would have received if the testator had died without a will. This entitlement only applies in some circumstances.

One of these conditions is that the child did not receive part of the estate equivalent to his or her share as an advancement, such as through lifetime gifting. Another required condition is that the testator did not intend to leave the child out of the will. In this case, we don’t know if it was Fernandez’s intention to not name his child as a beneficiary of the trust.

In our next post, we’ll say a bit more about these requirements and a third requirement imposed by state law with respect to pretermitted children, as well as the importance of working with an experienced attorney when addressing estate disputes.

Source: Wealth Management, “Top Four Estate Disputes of 2016,” Will Sleeth, Jan. 31, 2017.

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