The sad passing of TV personality Anthony Bourdain has brought up some important estate planning questions that others may want to consider.
Bourdain and his wife were still legally married when he died. They did not want to get a divorce, as they were focused on staying fully involved with their daughter. They said they both loved her and wanted to put their time and energy into co-parenting. However, they had separated and were not romantically involved as a couple.
Bourdain's passing puts his family in a very interesting position since his wife, despite not being "with" him anymore, still legally counts as his next of kin. She is the beneficiary of his estate. She -- not his parents or his daughter -- can make choices about funeral arrangements, burial decisions and much more.
This is a rather strange gray area. Many assets pass directly to a spouse if someone dies. That makes perfect sense for couples who are happily married and living together at the time that one of them dies. However, what about estranged couples who are legally married but no longer together. Is that estranged spouse really the person whom the other party would want to inherit the bulk of their assets and make legal decisions about their estate?
It does not appear that Bourdain and his wife were on bad terms, so this may all work out easily for the family. However, not all couples are so lucky. This story raises a lot of important estate planning questions and shows why couples in these situations must plan in advance.
Source: Forbes, "Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain And Estate Planning When You Are Separated," Megan Gorman, June 12, 2018