Roderick Covlin was arrested yesterday on charges he murdered his wife on New Year's Eve in 2009. The estranged couple was in the midst of divorce when Shele Covlin was found dead in a bathtub. An autopsy revealed she had been strangled. Ms. Covlin reportedly feared for her safety and had an appointment with an attorney to change her will the next day according to court filings. Since her death, her husband, an unemployed backgammon expert, has been blocked from receiving any of her $1.0 million estate. She changed the beneficiaries of her $1.6 million insurance policy to her children the month before she died.
There are a litany of estate planning issues, but let's focus on the major ones:
1. Changing a will and other documents during a divorce proceeding is always advisable if not prohibited by agreements between the parties or the domestic relations court.
2. Simply changing a will can allow the other spouse to inherit up to one third of the probate estate if the spouse elects to take the elective share provided by statute. Transferring the assets to a trust would be a more effective means of disinheriting a divorcing spouse.
3. If convicted of murder, the husband will lose all benefits to his deceased wife's estate under NY's Slayer Statute.
4. Am I the only one who doubts that Shele Covlin had an appointment on New Year's Day to change her estate plan? The day after perhaps, but not on New Year's Day.