As many people in Virginia can likely attest, relationships among family members can be complex even under the most ideal circumstances. However, blended families can sometimes have even more challenges. While it is important to have a detailed, enforceable estate plan regardless of the circumstances, it may be especially so when in the case of a second marriage, with children from the first one and a billion-dollar estate. In fact, a recent ruling by an appeals court in another state has recently revived a dispute between a deceased man’s second wife and his adult children from a previous relationship.

The case involves the owner of H&S Bakery, who died in 2016. At the time of his death, his wife — who he married in 2015 after they had lived together for over a decade — claimed that he promised her $20 million in a handwritten document. However, she claims that two of his children intentionally interfered, depriving her of the promised funds. She further states that two of his children took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a safe deposit box while their father was hospitalized.

In response, the children accused their father’s second wife of being a spendthrift and claim he told them that the money was intended for them in the event that something happened to him; they further claim that the handwritten will is not valid. Though a trial court originally ruled that the state of Maryland did not recognize interference as a cause of action, an appeals court recently decided that a ruling in a separate case this summer means that the state now recognizes it as a wrongful act.

Most people in Virginia have specific wishes regarding how they want their estate divided upon their death, regardless of its size. Fortunately, without a properly executed will and other relevant documents, a person’s wishes could be up to interpretation or may by subject to a successful challenge. By working with an attorney with experience with estate planning, the owner of an estate can be assured that their wishes are clearly expressed and less susceptible to a challenge.