Can Jenni Rivera's Letter Be Treated Like a Will? - New York Estate Planning News

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Can Jenni Rivera's Letter Be Treated Like a Will?

Fans of Latin American music and TV know the name Jenni Rivera. The singer-actress died in a plane crash in Mexico last month. She was 43 years old.

While fans will remember Rivera for her life accomplishments, her estate may be the subject of controversy, writes Forbes. Rivera was married three times. Her third marriage was about to end in divorce at the time of her death.

She left behind no will, but rather a letter with detailed instructions. But will Jenni Rivera's letter hold up in court?

The instructions call for Jenni's sister, Rosie, to assume the management of much of her estate. This includes the management of Jenni's business entities, her assets and the guardianship of Jenni's two minor children.

That's no small amount, either. Rivera's company, Jenni Enterprises, is worth $25 million.

The problem with a letter is that it fails to provide for many important things that a properly drafted will or trust may provide for.

Some of these things include the executor of the estate. Now, with the letter, the court might take into consideration the writer's intention and make Rosie the executor. But Rosie is also the person who stands to gain the most from the estate.

There's also the question of Jenni's estranged husband. Her divorce hadn't yet been finalized. Much as we discussed with regard to Mary Kennedy's estate battle, an impending divorce doesn't sever the rights of the surviving spouse to the estate.

So while Jenni's sister might think she has rights to the full estate, the soon-to-be ex-husband still might have a huge stake in the estate, especially since the couple lived in California, which is a community property state.

Under community property laws, the wealth acquired in an estate during a couple's marriage is generally split evenly upon divorce. That is, unless there was an agreement executed to the contrary.

While New York isn't a community property state, it does have the concept of the surviving spouse's elective share of the estate, in which the surviving spouse is entitled to a certain portion of the estate.

Before her death, Jenni Rivera told reporters she had a prenup, and it's likely that certain provisions in the prenup might help clarify the legal claims between the spouses going forward.

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