Haunting Estate Planning Errors: The Case of the Zombie Documents

For the Halloween episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp engage in a spirited discussion of the horrors some folks have visited upon their families' finances from the afterlife by making big mistakes in estate planning.

In this segment, they discuss a nonfamous fellow, DuPont employee William Kennedy, who -- as sometimes happens -- divorced his wife. At the time, the ex agreed to waive her rights to his retirement plan assets. When he died though, guess where the money went.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 31, 2017.

Alison Southwick: Just when you thought she was out of your life for good, it's Zombie Wife.

Robert Brokamp: This is the case of William Kennedy. Not part of the famous Kennedy family. This Kennedy worked for DuPont and participated in the company's retirement plan. In 1994 he and his wife, whose name was Liv, got divorced and in the agreement she waived any rights to his retirement plan.

Seven years later, William passes away. The money, however, was sent from the retirement plan to the wife. Why? Because William did not update the beneficiary form on his retirement plan. When you signed up for your 401(k) at work, you filled out the beneficiary form, but you also have that on IRAs. You have it on life insurance policies. There are all types of different assets and accounts in which you've filled out the beneficiary form.

He didn't update it, so the daughter who should have [or at least she thought] should have inherited the money took it to court. Went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2009. They decided for Liv, the ex-wife. She's the one who gets the $400,000.

Southwick: Oh, that's not bad! That's not too shabby.

Brokamp: No, not too bad. The lesson here is to review and update your beneficiary forms and include copies with all your other important papers.

Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.