“I Think I Love You” But I’m Afraid I Left You Out of My Will: Did David Cassidy Really Intend to Disinherit His Daughter?

David Cassidy, the 1970’s teen heartthrob better known for his role as Keith Partridge on “The Partridge Family” died on November 21, 2017 of liver failure in Broward County, Florida. His close family and loved ones—including his daughter Katherine—were by his side. Various news outlets have reported that David and Katherine had a turbulent relationship throughout the years and that David did not raise Katherine, rather she was raised by her mother, former model Sherry Williams. Nevertheless, near the end of his life, they had begun to repair their relationship. However, entered into probate was David’s 2004 Last Will and Testament, a pour-over will that explicitly disinherited his daughter Katherine and her descendants. The will also names his then-wife, Susan L. Cassidy, as personal representative of his estate. However, Susan filed for divorce from David in February 2014 and the divorce was finalized during April 2016. Fortunately, Broward County probate records indicate that one of the successor personal representatives, Charles V. Douglas, has taken on the role, as well as that of trustee of the family trust. Considering the reconciliation, naming his then-wife as personal representative of his estate, and that this is a 13-year old will, did David truly intend to disinherit his daughter, or did the failure to update his will defeat the purpose of designating his wishes in said document?

At this point, we will never know whether David truly intended to continue with the disinheritance of his daughter or whether he intended for his ex-wife to continue to benefit from his estate or serve as the personal representative after their 2016 divorce. The general rule of thumb among practitioners is to encourage your clients to revisit, review, and if necessary, revise their estate planning documents whenever a major life event takes place (i.e., marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc.) or at the very least, every five years.

The moral of the story here is this: Although it is extremely important to make sure you have your affairs in order through solid estate planning, it is also just as important, if not more so, to make sure you maintain and update your estate plan to ensure that what you have in writing truly matches your designated wishes given changes in your life’s circumstances near the time of death.

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