May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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Quote of the Day - A father may turn his back on his child, brothers and sisters may become inveterate enemies, husbands may desert their wives, wives their husbands. But a mother's love endures through all. - Washington Irving
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What's The Point Of Having A Will?

Now don't get me wrong here, but this situation comes dangerously close to too much government regulation.  Let me explain.  60-year old Anthony "Corky" Sliwkowski had the nerve to die with a will. 

Well, that's not really the problem, is it?  It's what happened after he died that presents the issue prompting my question in the headline.  You see, Corky was a dentist, and a wealthy one at that.  He had a $3 million dollar estate, the kind worth fighting over.

And it's a fight we indeed have.  Corky divorced some time ago, and had three children from his prior marriage.  Two years ago, he signed a will disinheriting his three children.  I'm guessing here that the divorce was a nasty one. 

Trouble is, two of the three children were minors, aged 11 and 13 at the time of his untimely death.  The oldest child was of majority, over age 18.  The money, Corky's entire estate, went instead to his sister, Flossie.

His former wife, Barbara Sliwkowski, was not happy that Corky disinheirited his two daughters, so she sued to ensure they'd inherit at least part of his money.  To be fair, you should know that Corky hand-wrote out some notes about adding his daughters back into his will, everyone involved in the dispute agrees Corky very much loved his daughters and around the time Corky wrote his will, he was likely in a manic-depressive state. 

And all's well that ends well:  Flossie and Barbara settled the lawsuit, and the girls each get $200K toward their education, and apparently Barbara had earlier received an allegedly sizable settlement in her divorce, and Corky's life insurance policy went to his two daughters.

Now that everyone's calmed down, consider these two other points made in this Boston Globe Online story by Jenna Russell:  first, she notes "Some states have already wrestled with the question and determined that a father's duty does transcend his death. A Massachusetts ruling, decided by a 4-to-2 vote of the Supreme Judicial Court in 2000, found that a father's death 'does not extinguish his duty to support his minor child,' even if his will severs ties to the child." 

Next, the story points out Barbara and her lawyer want to introduce legislation in Rhode Island, where Corky died, preventing fathers from disinheriting their minor children.  [July 24, 2008 correction:  Barbara Silwkowski has informed me that she and her lawyer introduced the legislation "to make child support a valid claim against an estate."  MIPTC regrets the error.  Further, according to Ms. Silwkowski, the legislation was introduced and passed on the first reading.]  Certainly it seems a good social policy to ensure fathers provide for their daughters, but legislation?  I thought that's what divorce courts were supposed to do with that thing they call child support.  Otherwise, if Mom and Dad are still married, would such legislation invade the marital finances and require certain financial standards to have children?

Where do we draw the line?  You can only have kids if you can afford it?  Who determines how much you have to earn to have children.  Silly questions, yes, but ones that may get asked in this type of statute.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 23:19 Comments (0)


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