Husband and Wife have a Son. And then promptly divorce.
Husband moves far away and starts a new family.
Wife raises Son alone. Son has no contact with Husband.
When Son is just eighteen years old, Son has a heart attack while at high school.
Son suffers severe brain damage as a result of his heart attack and allegedly inadequate care while at the high school.
Wife sues the School District for negligence. Wife and School District settle, with School District agreeing to pay $34,000 per month into a Special Needs Trust for Son for twenty years.
Because Son’s recovery is sheltered in a Special Needs Trust, Son is able to receive substantial public health benefits to meet his special needs.
Son dies five years later. Leaving $8 million behind in his Special Needs Trust.
The Special Needs Trust passes to Son’s estate. Since Son does not have a will, under the applicable law, the Special Needs Trust passes fifty-fifty to Wife and Husband.
Wife allegedly plots to deny Husband his half interest in Son’s Special Needs Trust. She reportedly refuses to provide the law firm handling the Special Needs Trust with Husband’s contact information.
She drives from California to Husband’s workplace in Rhode Island and allegedly tricks Husband into signing a disclaimer or waiver of Husband’s interest in Son’s Special Needs Trust, telling Husband that the document is for Son’s burial.
When the first disclaimer document is determined to be possibly inadequate, Wife drives to Rhode Island again with another disclaimer or waiver for Husband to sign.
This time, Husband becomes suspicious and consults an attorney. And then seeks to set the original disclaimer aside. And Wife sues to enforce the original disclaimer.
At trial, the Court refuses to enforce the original disclaimer, due to Wife’s deception as to the nature of the document and insufficient identification in the document of precisely what it is that Husband is waiving.
On appeal, the appellate court affirms the award of half of the Special Needs Trust to Husband.
Even though Husband was never a part of Son’s life after his birth and was not involved in the litigation which resulted in Son’s recovery.
It is hardly surprising that an eighteen year old did not have a will.
Given the severity of Son’s injuries, however, it is surprising that greater attention was not paid to identification of Son’s actual caregivers and loved ones, and protection of their interests under Son’s Special Needs Trust.
Read more in this Academy of Special Needs Planners’ newsletter article: Mother Tries to Trick Her Ex-Husband Out of His Share of a Special Needs Trust and this National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ newsletter article: Attempt to Play Fast and Loose with SNT Remainder Fails (Cal. App.)