Can an ex-spouse get their hands on one's estate after they have passed? It all depends on where they reside and the planning in place.
Nelson Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has always been a controversial figure. Nelson Mandela actually divorced her six years after he was released from prison, but she continued to be in the background of his life. The Daily Mail recently published an article, titled “Battle over Nelson Mandela's will as ex-wife Winnie demands the country home he left to third wife in legal move which threatens to split ANC leader's family,” which details some of the current issues.
The article explains that Mandela's estate was valued at approximately £2.4 million. That's about $4 million dollars. The estate included several pieces of real estate and most of the estate was left in trust for Mandela's family. Mrs. Mandela received nothing, which is not unusual for an ex-spouse. However, she is claiming that she purchased one of the family homes while Mr. Mandela was in prison. If this is true, then under South African law the property should belong to her. The original article further details some of the feuding between Nelson Mandela's heirs.
Obviously, South African law is different than estate law in the United States. Here, ex-spouses normally are not entitled to any portion of a person's estate. If the divorce proceedings do not give the property to the ex-spouse, then he or she is not entitled to claim the property later on. This case illustrates a common problem, however.
Remember to inform your estate planning attorney about anyone who might have a claim to your property, real or imagined, so any issues can be handled before you pass away.
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