Exclusion of Sons From Jerry Lewis’ Will Shocking, But Legally Sound

When comedy legend Jerry Lewis’ will was made public, many focused on the fact that he had intentionally excluded each of his six sons, as well as their descendants, as beneficiaries. Instead, his entire estate was left to his second wife and their adopted daughter.

While the details were shocking to many, Dallas estate planning attorney Sam Long of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP says this type of exclusion typically will withstand legal challenges. One of the fundamental premises of the American law of succession and wills is what is sometimes called ‘freedom of disposition, he says. As long as wills are freely made, and subject to some protections for surviving spouses and minor children, state laws generally permit the complete exclusion of family members or differences in their shares.

Although this type of exclusion is not common, such a provision is not unheard of says Mr. Long, who also serves as an adjunct professor of wills, trusts and estates at the UNT-Dallas College of Law. There are a number of individuals who made what many would see as ‘curious’ decisions about their fortunes. For example, Cornelius Vanderbilt left in excess of 90 percent of his estate to just one of his surviving 12 children, William, and his family, he says. It isn’t the norm but when you are dealing with family dynamics there is often a complex foundation as to why these decisions are made.


For more information contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

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