Heath Ledger passed away in 2008, leaving half of his reported $20 Million estate to his three sisters, and the other half to his parents. At the time of his death, however, he was already father to two-year-old Matilda, whom he shared with Michelle Williams.
If he did not leave a Will, his estate would go to his surviving family – including his daughter (he and Michelle were not married). However, he did leave a Will, which was signed in 2003 – two years before the birth of his daughter. Whether he left a Will or not, the estate would still have to go through Probate. Since it wasn’t updated after the birth of his daughter, the entire estate was distributed according to his Will, leaving out his daughter
There were reports of infighting within Heath’s family over his estate – the silver lining was everyone seemed interested in Matilda inheriting her father’s fortune. While Michelle did not file a claim on their daughter’s behalf, Heath’s family decided to gift the entire estate to Matilda. The tax implications the Ledger family may have incurred for this generous gift remain unclear – Heath was Australian and his family is based there as well.
To be fair, Heath did not forget to take care of his daughter. He had a $10 Million life insurance policy with Matilda as the beneficiary. However, claiming the payout wasn’t so cut and dried. While Heath’s death was officially ruled as accidental prescription-drug overdose, ReliaStar Life Insurance Co had wanted to investigate further to rule out the possibility of suicide. Attorney William Shernoff filed a lawsuit on behalf of Matilda for the claim, and the matter was settled out of court. No details on the terms of agreement have been released.
We will never know why Heath did not include a provision for a pretermitted child (child who was left out) in his Will or why he did not update his Will after the birth of his child. The legal process of transferring the assets to Matilda would have been much smoother and raised less conflict had the Will been updated to include her. While this story has a happy ending with Matilda’s future secure, not all families would be so generous.
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