A recent story in the Chicago Tribune will be of interest to anybody who has created, or is considering creating, an estate plan—regardless of state of residence. The article tells of Heather Rooney, the widow of wealthy businessman Thomas McNamee, and her ongoing fight to get the inheritance she believes her deceased husband wanted her to have.
Approximately six months before his death Thomas McNamee found out he had a deadly form of brain cancer. After learning that his cancer treatments had failed McNamee took steps to get his affairs in order; these steps included marrying Rooney, his girlfriend of 15 years, and setting up a $3.5 million trust fund for the benefit of Rooney and other family members.
It seems like he took care of everything—prenuptial agreement signed before the wedding, trust created before he became too sick to manage his affairs—what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, according to Heather Rooney, the arrangements left after his death were not what her husband actually intended. “According to [Rooney’s] suit, [McNamee] intended to leave Rooney a $500,000 trust fund to maintain her at the 24-acre Dundee-area property where the couple lived. He also intended to leave her two parcels in East Dundee, including one with a beauty salon that Rooney operated.” Rooney also claims that she was coerced mere minutes before their wedding into signing a prenuptial agreement that did not accurately reflect her or Thomas McNamee’s true wishes.
At this point, we can’t know for certain what McNamee’s true wishes were. It certainly seems as if he created a thorough plan which would accurately reflect his wishes not only for his widow but also for other family members. But one would think a person as savvy as McNamee would have informed his spouse of his plans ahead of time, eliciting her grudging agreement, if not her wholehearted approval.
Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can be contested by unhappy relatives. But with the help of an experienced attorney you can make your plan as strong or as flexible as you believe is necessary to ensure that your wishes are followed and your loved ones are provided for.