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Will contest after boxer's death is a reminder for all of us

Proper estate planning is not rushed. It is a process that happens continually over time. When circumstances change - such as a new marriage or divorce -- it is necessary to address those changes in your estate plan. Such changes typically include a change in marital status. It is normal for New Jersey residents to want to rethink the beneficiaries on their accounts when they have just entered into a new marriage, or when they have just gone through a divorce.

In such instances, it is a good idea to ensure that your wishes are clearly laid out and that close family members and the executor of your estate are aware of your wishes. Once you have passed on, it will be very difficult for loved ones to know exactly what your wishes were without well-documented directions and a properly drafted will. By that same token, it is very important to make sure that everyone knows where you keep your signed will.

The recent alleged suicide of Arturo Gatti, a well-known boxer, has left the beneficiaries of his estate in question. Apparently, his family says that in 2007, Gatti signed a will drafted in New Jersey leaving his assets to his mother and his daughter. Unfortunately, the family cannot find a signed copy of this will. It is possible that it is sitting in a storage locker in New Jersey somewhere or possibly at his home in Montreal.

The reason it is vital for the family to find a copy of his signed will from 2007 is that they are now battling his current wife for the assets in his estate, valued at about $3.4 million.

This is because the family does not believe that his death was a suicide, and questions remain as to whether his wife had any involvement in his death. They are especially suspicious because just three weeks before he died, the 37-year-old signed a new will leaving his new wife everything and leaving nothing to his daughter from a prior relationship.

Instead, family members hope that the boxer's son, who was born after 2007, and daughter can split the estate after other expenses are paid. However, without evidence of a validly executed prior will, they face an uphill legal battle.

This story is a very important reminder for New Jersey residents to ensure that their will is in a safe, but accessible place, where loved ones will be able to find it when the time comes.

Source: montreal.ctv.ca, "Brother of late boxer Gatti wants fortune left to kids," Sept. 19, 2011

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