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Legal saga finally over for elderly Florida couple

A settlement has finally been reached in the case of Zelman vs. Zelman. This case was about the sad decline into dementia of an 87-year-old man who eventually could not recognize his wife of 15 years.

The man's children accused his 80-year-old wife of abusing him and had a judge order her out of their shared Palm Beach condominium. That order was later overturned by an appeals court a year later.

With 11 different legal battles between the man's children from his first marriage and his wife, the litigation finally came to an end in November of this year. The children are their father's guardians and will remain so as part of the settlement.

The man's wife will receive $9.75 million, as well as other property such as real estate, artwork, jewelry and furniture. The settlement agreement is much like a divorce decree, although the man's wife never wanted a divorce.

Back in July, a judge ruled that the man was not competent enough to know that a divorce was what his legal case was about. According to a prenuptial agreement, if a divorce occurred, his wife would receive none of the man's fortune, estimated at $50 million. If the man had passed away, she would have received about $10 million.

The catch in the prenup, though, was that the man was required to be the one to file for divorce. If a guardian filed for divorce for the man, then the money would still go to his wife. Eventually, the case involving the man's competency ended up in probate court and the two sides came to the settlement agreement.

This story, while tragic, should serve as a reminder to those who marry or remarry late in life. A prenuptial agreement can protect your assets and provide a sense of peace. Simply relying on your estate plan may not be enough.

Source: Palm Beach Post, "Palm Beach divorce case ends, with warnings for older couples," Jane Musgrave, Nov. 29, 2015

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