When filing to dissolve her 27-year marriage to Bill Gates recently, Melinda French Gates took the unusual step of naming Trust and estate lawyers in the filing. Experts have speculated that this means French Gates could be planning to make changes to the way the couple’s estate will be distributed, and more specifically, changes to the amounts their three children will inherit when she dies.
French Gates has hired a high-profile divorce lawyer, Robert Cohen with the firm Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich, the same firm that previously represented such clients as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ivana Trump. However, the filing raised some eyebrows because it names estate planning attorneys Loretta Ippolito and Bruce Birenboim, both from the firm Paul Weiss which handles complex estate planning issues.
Any type of divorce scenario can necessitate changes to an existing estate plan, of course. That’s because in most cases, those existing estate plans were structured based on the couple’s wishes, goals, and financial circumstances at the time they created their Trusts, Wills, or other estate planning documents. Divorce often changes the financial picture for each spouse dramatically. In addition, goals and wishes for distribution may be different after the divorce is finalized. Wishes for leaving assets to charitable organizations may change, as each former spouse evaluates what causes are actually most important to them, and goals for legacy gifts for children and grandchildren may look different.
At this point, little is actually known about why Melinda French Gates named estate planning attorneys in her divorce filing; any speculation is just that.
Any time your marital status changes, it is a good time to revisit your estate plan to ensure it still addresses what is most important to you, and that it reflects your current financial picture. The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center can help. Contact us today to learn more!