Jerry Lewis was known for many things. Generations of people in Michigan and across the world appreciated his brilliant comedy in movies and stand-up routines. Each year at summer’s end, Lewis’s telethon raised millions of dollars to find a cure for children afflicted with muscular dystrophy. While other children benefitted from Lewis’s charitable acts, the comedian’s own children did not. The wills and trusts of many celebrities have recently raised eyebrows, and Jerry Lewis may have done the same with his estate plan.
The passing of Jerry Lewis has brought to light many personal details his fans may not have known. During the 36 years of their marriage, Lewis and his first wife raised six sons. The couple divorced in 1980. Three years later, when he was 56, Lewis married a 32-year-old Las Vegas showgirl. The couple had one daughter.
Last month when Lewis died of heart failure at the age of 91, fans may have been shocked to learn that the man known for his tearful pleas for the well-being of children was apparently irreconcilably estranged from the six sons of his first marriage. When his youngest son died of a drug overdose, Lewis’s eldest son publicly blamed the comedian for his brother’s struggles with addiction. As a result, Lewis explicitly disinherited his sons by name and their descendants. The will, executed in 2012, likely leaves the multi-million-dollar estate to his second wife and their daughter.
There are infinite reasons why people choose to disinherit potential beneficiaries. Without a will that expressly excludes those people, the disinherited parties may claim a share of the estate despite the wishes of the deceased. Even if their names are simply not mentioned, disinherited family members may dispute the omission as a mistake. For those in Michigan who desire to make special provisions or exclusions in their wills and trusts, the guidance of an attorney may prove a critical asset.
Source: New York Daily News, “Jerry Lewis left 6 sons from first marriage out of will: report“, Nancy Dillon, Sept. 21, 2017