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Death of actor's husband emphasizes the need for estate planning

For those living in New Jersey or anywhere else in the U.S., the death of the 47-year-old husband of actor Taylor Armstrong has focused the spotlight on the need for good estate planning.

Russell Armstrong committed suicide about a month after the actress filed for divorce against him. Family members expressed surprise at his death.

The situation became even tenser after attorneys representing his family members began public arguments regarding the funeral arrangements. The attorney for the deceased accused his estranged wife of not disclosing the time and location of the funeral.

The attorney for the actress denied the allegations saying that she wanted to bury her husband in Los Angeles, but that his family wanted the body returned to Texas. In the end, both parties agreed to cremation with some of the remains going to his wife and the rest to his family in Texas.

Misunderstandings can be amplified by a divorce that is pending when one partner dies. Since the actress was still legally married to him, she was the next of kin and was legally entitled to make decisions on his behalf.

Also, because a divorce was never granted, the actress now has rights to his estate, including control of all or most of his assets depending on what estate planning the deceased may have done before his death.

A good estate plan is important and is even more important for individuals in the middle of a divorce in order to make their final wishes known before the divorce is granted. Otherwise, control of the estate, including executing the final wishes of the deceased, reverts to the surviving partner.

Source: Investment Insights, "Death of Real Housewives' Russell Armstrong Puts Spotlight on Estate Planning," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Aug. 23, 2011

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