Blended families require special planning. Sometimes, the children from the prior marriage bond with the new spouse and the family moves forward in a happy, newly modified form. However, frequently, the new marriage brings conflict between the new spouse and the children of the prior marriage. Such is the case with the Sagers.
In 1980, sports reporter Craig Sager married Lisa Gabel. They had three children, Craig, Jr., Kacy, and Krista. But, over the years, the couple’s differences increased. After two decades, they split and Craig married Stacey Strebel. Stacey was a little older than Craig’s children from the prior marriage. Craig and Stacey then had children of their own, Ryan and Riley.
Nearly from the outset, there was friction between Craig’s children from the first marriage and Stacey. This continued when Craig developed leukemia. Craig, Jr. helped his father live longer through two very painful bone marrow transplants. However, Stacey publicly opined that the son was doing the bone marrow donations merely for publicity.
Craig died in December 2016, leaving a Will which disinherited Craig, Jr., Kacy, and Krista, his three children from his first marriage. The three children are not seeking to contest the Will. However, Craig’s (second) wife, Stacey, is suing the children from Craig’s first marriage to make sure they will not contest Craig’s Will, further escalating the conflict and bitterness in the family.
There are at least two lessons to be learned from this sad tale.
- First, it’s always best to communicate your plans and minimize surprises. Craig’s disinheritance of the children from his first marriage was a surprise to them. Surprises often result in bitter feelings and potential litigation.
- Second, Wills are subject to probate proceedings and are open to the public. If Craig wanted to disinherit his children from the first marriage, he could have left a Will which left everything to his trust. Then, in the trust, Craig could have disinherited the children from his first marriage privately. If he had proceeded in that manner, the tabloids may never have known of the disinheritance and the flames of the family discord would not have been fanned by the tabloids.
Blended families take careful planning even in the best of circumstances. Communication and privacy can help dampen family tensions.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128