What Can We Learn From Monty Python?

The Monty Python star, Terry Jones’ two children launched a legal battle against his second wife, alleging he lacked ‘mental capacity’ when he wrote his last will and left her their £2.8m London home before dying from dementia. The Welsh-born comedian passed away last year at the age of 77, nine years after his second marriage to Anna Soderstrom, age 38. Yup!
The last will in question was drafted in 2016, the same year that Jones announced that he was diagnosed with a form of dementia where symptoms get progressively worse over time.
So, how would this heir dispute over the primary residence fair in the Sunshine State?
Readers of this blog know that as a general rule, you may not disinherit your spouse from the primary residence. This is an old law, intended to protect spouses from each other. If you are married, even if the deed in only in your name, the spouse is entitled to at least a life estate in the property. If you have children from a previous marriage, the property reverts back to the children when the second spouse dies. This is not the case if husband and wife own the property jointly (as husband and wife or as joint tenants with rights of survivor ship). In that case, the spouse gets the property outright at the death of the first spouse. Our analysis is if the property is held in one married person’s name alone.
Had the two been Floridians, and only Jones was on the deed, Soderstrom (wifey #2) would be entitled to a life estate in the property; she gets the property while she’s alive and then at her passing the property would go to his children.
As to the mental capacity question, hopefully there is an attorney out there that can show that they administered a competency test, and the kids will have an uphill battle (in Florida) to show that dad lacked capacity for a last will.
There you have it folks, it’s not easy to disinherit your spouse, especially from the primary residence. Let me know if I got you thinking about your estate plan and you have a question for me.
Portrait of Odelia Goldberg, Esq.

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