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Fashion Designer Oscar de la Renta’s Estate Plan Provides Template for Disinheritance

Weber Law July 1, 2015

When people attempt to construct do-it-yourself estate planning documents or work with non-attorneys when constructing an estate plan, the documents and plan frequently result in outcomes that diverge from the creator’s intentions and goals.  Because family members are more likely to challenge an estate plan that disinherits heirs in whole or in part, legal advice and expertise is particularly important to ensure that an individual’s intentions regarding disposition of his or her estate are implemented.

The estate plan of renowned fashion designer Oscar de la Renta provides a template for individuals wishing to dispose of their estate in a manner that deviates significantly from intestate succession (i.e., passing of assets without a will or trust).  Multiple marriages with children from several marriages makes the estate planning process more complex.  The increased number of family member with a potential stake in inheriting a portion of the estate also creates a higher probability that a will or trust agreement will be challenged.

Oscar de la Renta effectively employed a strategy for disinheriting his adoptive son Moises with whom Mr. Renta had a falling out after Moises started a competing fashion label.  Because Moises was adopted, he was entitled to receive a significant portion of his father’s $26 million estate.  However, Mr. de La  Renta left ¾ of his estate to his second wife and placed the remaining quarter of his assets in a trust.  de La Renta shared in the trust with Mr. de La Renta’s second wife and her three children from a prior marriage.

Although Moises would have inherited a substantial share of the entire estate if Mr. de La  Renta had died intestate, the estate plan was constructed in a way that discouraged a challenge of the estate plan.  The will creating the trust included a “no contest” provision that entirely disinherited Moises if he challenged the disposition of assets.  The approach taken by Mr. de La Renta discourages litigation that would diminish the value of the estate.  Moises inheritance was significant enough that there was a strong motivation not to risk violating the “no contest” provision of the will.

As this case demonstrates, a “no contest” clause in a will is more effective when a family member is not entirely disinherited.  When a family member who would have a right to recover under state intestacy law is left with nothing, there is no real disincentive to violate a “no contest” clause.  In other words, the fact that Moises was left with a share of ¼ of a $26 million estate provided a financial incentive not to risk violating the “no contest’ clause.  Although Moises ended up with a lot less than he would have been entitled to receive if there had been no will or trust, he inherited enough that he would be taking a significant risk by challenging the will.

When you are considering a plan for succession of your legacy that deviates from state intestacy law, an experienced Kansas Estate Planning Lawyer can help you take steps to discourage costly challenges.  If you have questions about estate planning, estate administration, or the probate process, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions.  We invite you to call the Weber Law Office, or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.