Most states, including New Hampshire, do not require an estate plan to provide a family inheritance so you can leave your assets to family members, another person important to you, charities or to others. This reality however can be particularly distressing to family members when the widow or widower enters into a relationship much younger than them and leaves the estate to that individual. This is the case of Richard Robinson, Jr. who died suddenly on June 5, 2021 during a walk on Martha’s Vineyard. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9850461/Late-owner-1-2B-Scholastic-publishing-cuts-family-leaves-company-past-flame.html
Mr. Robinson for a long time was the head of a $1.2 billion dollar company, which published popular children’s books like “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Magic School Bus.” Mr. Robinson was 84 and left his estate to Iole Lucchese who was 30 years younger than him and the company’s Chief Strategy Officer who had a long-time romantic relationship with Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson’s ex-wife, who he reportedly became close to during the pandemic along with his children, were left out of the Will. While this matter does not involve New Hampshire, in this state people can also decide not to leave an inheritance to their adult children as long as it was their decision and not due to undue influence.
I had a case in which the daughter of a decedent challenged the estate-planning decisions of her widowed father who left his wealth upon his death to an in-home caretaker who was significantly younger than him. While the case focused on a claim that the caretaker unduly influenced the father to leave her his assets, the daughter through counsel argued, in part, at trial and at the Supreme Court, that the wealth that was accumulated between our client’s father and their mother prior to her passing was a family inheritance that was a factor that should be considered by the Court. However, courts look to whether or not the person has the mental capacity to enter into the estate plan and, if so, was there someone who influenced them such to the level that supplanted his free will. In that case, the daughter was unable to show that undue influence.
J. Daniel Marr is a Director and Shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. His legal practice includes counseling businesses and individuals on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf. Attorney Marr is licensed and practices in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Attorney Marr can be reached at [email protected].