Heath Ledger's Daughter Accidentally Left Out of Will

By: Jim Dossey, MS, MBA, JD

Heath Ledger, an Australian actor and director, died on January 22 nd, 2008 from an overdose of prescription drugs. Over his career, Ledger completed 19 films, including "Brokeback Mountain", "Casanova", "The Dark Knight", "The Patriot", and "Monster's Ball." At the time of his death, Ledger's estate was estimated to be worth more than $20 Million dollars.

Shortly after his death, it was discovered that Ledger's Last Will and Testament left his entire estate to his parents and his three sisters. Ledger signed his Will on April 12 th, 2003, two years before the birth of his daughter, Matilda Rose. Unfortunately, Ledger never updated his Will to include Matilda.

Despite being left out of Ledger's Will, Matilda Rose was entitled to a large share of Ledger's estate under Australian law. The point was moot, however, because Ledger's family gifted everything to Matilda as part of the distribution of the estate assets.

Texas law also provides for children who are mistakenly not included in a parent's Will (called a "pretermitted child"). A child is not considered a pretermitted child if they are mentioned in the Will or if they are provided for in other ways (i.e. if they are a beneficiary on a 401k or insurance policy). The amount the pretermitted child is entitled to depends on a number of factors, including whether the parent had other children at the time the Will was written, whether the parent was married at the time of their death, and whether the parent made specific bequests to the other children in the Will.

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