Estate Planning When You are Separated – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

From an estate planning perspective, the suicides of two successful and talented people share another commonality- both were estranged from their spouses.

When most couples separate, they usually try to move the divorce along quickly. However, Spade and Bourdain’s lives were more nuanced.  They had not moved to the next step of finalizing their divorces,  and were “permanently separated.”  

A recent article in Forbes, “Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain And Estate Planning When You Are Separated,” reports that while the U.S. divorce rate hovers around 42%-45%, factoring in the number of people permanently separated moves the rate closer to 50%.

In an amicable setting, when children are still young, this can work fine for the family. However, when settling estates, a separated couple and their partners can find themselves in challenging legal and emotional situations.

Even if romantically involved with others, the couples are still married.  Bourdain’s estranged spouse is and forever will be his next of kin and she will be in charge of funeral plans and his estate. His girlfriend, Italian actress Asia Argento, has no legal standing.

Can separated couples untangle their estate plans? Here are a few steps to take if you want to continue to be separated but want to separate your estate plans:

  • Have a new Health Care Directive put into place designating who can make decisions or take action on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
  • Provide who controls funeral arrangements.
  • Have a new Powers of Attorney created so someone else can make any financial decisions if you cannot.
  • Check your beneficiary designations to make sure that they align with your wishes. You may wish your separated wife to continue as a beneficiary on a life insurance account so she can take care of your children, and that is an option.
  • Have an estate planning attorney review your will so it reflects your marital status. If you do not have a will, make an appointment immediately.
  • Make sure that key people in your legal and financial life know that you are making these changes, even if you and your spouse expect to be “permanently separated,” for whatever duration of time you chose.