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Lawsuit occurs despite premarital agreements

Many people see prenups as a legal device employed by the wealthy. In truth, premarital agreements can be used to set out expectations for a relationship, property or finances regardless of what monetary status couples have going into a marriage. Without the proper forethought and legal knowledge, however, a prenuptial won't fully protect you and your family.

One couple's family is mired in a legal battle after a string of events that seem tied to a Nicholas Sparks novel. The couple met in elder years -- they were both in their 70s -- and fell deeply in love. She was a hospital-chain heiress worth over $17 million. He was worth over $1 million himself. According to reports, the two signed a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married.

Documents show that the couple's prenuptial agreement protected each of their assets in separate trusts. Her assets would be bequeathed to her children and grandchildren; his assets would be inherited by his family. All seemed well until both of the individuals began to suffer from dementia.

Today, the couple lives in separate states. Both individuals are in their 80s. Each is being cared for by separate family members, and those family members are embroiled in a lawsuit. Her family is suing his, claiming they inappropriately siphoned millions from her accounts.

The entire suit is muddied by the fact that the couple both suffer from dementia. Some of the defendants in the original lawsuit are now deceased, but reports indicate that the surviving family members battle on. The case is a cautionary tell about the important of strong estate planning -- including choices about end-of-life care and power of attorney. Selecting people you trust to handle your accounts and decisions is an essential step to ensuring a better outcome for everyone involved.

Source: Herald-Tribune, "First came love. Then the litigation." Barbara Peters Smith, Apr. 06, 2014

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