News of Glee star Cory Monteith's death by cocaine and alcohol overdose on July 13, 2013 stunned his fans across the world. The heartthrob actor was only 31. He had struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager.
Cory's mother attributed his struggles with drugs at an early age due to the lack of a relationship with his father. In an interview with Good Morning America she said that Cory tried extra hard because he had been "invalidated" by his father.
Cory's father, Joe Monteith, denied this and blamed Cory's mother instead. He said his job in the Canadian military forced him to be away from home for months at a time, but he tried to maintain a relationship with Cory. In fact, he says his ex-wife prevented communication and returned Christmas gifts he sent to his son.
It's hard to determine whose side of the story is correct, but there is no dispute that Cory and his father didn't have a close relationship. At one point, they went eleven years without seeing each other, until Cory contacted his father about two years before he died, according to Joe's interview in People magazine. It is interesting that it was Cory who re-established contact, not his father.
The complicated family dynamic led to an interesting question about who should inherit Cory's estate. Cory was unmarried and had no children. Accordingly, his parents were his closest relatives and heirs. But Cory died without a will, or "intestate". Because he died intestate, the law -- not Cory's wishes -- determines who inherits his estate.
Typically, that means both parents would inherit equally. However, most states follow the Uniform Probate Code's lead and make an exception when a parent either did not openly treat the child as his or hers or refused to support the child. Cory Monteith's mother claims that Joe falls squarely into this rule of law, being tantamount to a "deadbeat dad."
Media reports recently surfaced that Joe Monteith did not dispute this in court. He signed a document filed with the probate court admitting he failed to pay child support and did not communicate with Cory from the age of nine to his twenties.
Once again, however, Joe challenged this through the press, contending that he never wanted anything from his son's estate, which is valued at $810,000. Cory's father agreed to sign the document giving up any claim to the estate, but that does not mean that he was a deadbeat father. Joe's current wife said that Joe did not read the document he signed and was unaware that it contained admissions of not communicating with or supporting his son. To the contrary, Joe and his wife said the support was taken directly from his paycheck.
In the end, it doesn't matter if the allegations are true or not -- if Joe is not trying to obtain a share of the estate, then Cory Monteith's mother will receive it all.
What about Cory's Glee co-star and girlfriend, Lea Michele? Because they weren't married, she is not entitled to inherit anything. Certainly Cory's mother can give something to her if she wants, but that would be completely up to his mother.
Do you think Cory Monteith would have wanted his girlfriend to receive something? How would he have felt about his estate being tied up for a-year-and-a-half until the question of whether or not his father should share in his estate?
Under the law, what Cory wanted simply does not matter. That's what happens when people die without wills.
Cory Monteith's estate highlights an important lesson -- every adult should take the time to make out at least a basic will. Otherwise, the laws of the state he or she lives in will determine who receives what from their estate. With intestate estates, the probate process often becomes longer and more difficult as well as more expensive than it needs to be. How will the assets be divided? What about sentimental items? Who will be the administrator or executor? Who will handle the funeral and burial arrangements? These questions all become much more complicated when there is no will.
Studies show that up to two-thirds of adult Americans don't have a will. Younger adults in their twenties and thirties often won't stop to think about the need to create a will as with Cory Monteith.
No one is promised tomorrow. And no one should wait until they are "old" to do their estate planning. Perhaps you know a young adult who was a fan of Cory Monteith and Glee who could learn from this tragic story.
Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of "Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!" and attorneys with "Barron Rosenberg Mayoras & Mayoras, PC". You can reach them at [email protected].