Valuable Estate Planning Lessons Can Be Learned from Lamar Odom’s Health Scare

By now you have probably heard about former NBA star, Lamar Odom’s, health scare.  Odom was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel on Tuesday, October 15, 2015.  Fortunately, Odom’s condition has improved, and he appears to be on the road to recovery.  What you might have not heard about in the news, however, are the estate implications and complications that came as a result of lax estate planning on behalf of Odom.

Although Odom was a highly-skilled NBA player, his increased fame can be attributed largely to his starring role on E!’s hit TV-series “Khloe & Lamar.”  Because of the popularity of the series, Khloe Kardashian and Odom’s “divorce” got a lot of attention and publicity from the media, but apparently not from the California courts.  As it turns out, the couple signed and filed divorce papers in July of 2015, but due to a severe backlog in the California courts, their divorce has not been finalized.  As a result of the delay, Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian are still legally married.  These circumstances created an interesting situation when Odom was found unconscious at the brothel because, as his legal spouse, Khloe Kardashian is responsible for making medical decisions on Odom’s behalf.

This awkward and undesirable situation highlights the need to frequently review and update one’s estate planning documents.  Because Odom did not sit down with an estate planning attorney after the attempted divorce to change to his estate planning documents, he left the responsibility of making medical decisions to his soon-to-be ex-wife.  An estate planning attorney would have likely advised Odom to update his health-care power of attorney, which would have allowed Odom to detail what kind of medical care he wished to receive, as well as who to put in charge of making medical decisions on his behalf.

Being that Odom is a California resident, his updated power of attorney would have also included a living will.  A living will is sometimes referred to as “a directive to physicians” or “advance directive.”  This document allows the individual to state his or her wishes for end-of-life medical care, in cases such as Odom’s, where the medical patient is unable to communicate his preferred medical treatment to the doctors.

Many recently divorced individuals expect their divorce papers to do all of the leg-work in freeing the parties from legal responsibilities to each other.  While filing divorce papers can be a step in the direction of freeing one from legal duties to his or her spouse, there are many complexities, such as the ones in Odom’s case that do not get solved by merely filing divorce papers with a court.  When a divorce, or any other major life change takes place, it is imperative that an individual meet with his or her estate planning attorney to ensure that all of the legal issues are covered.  Lamar Odom unfortunately did not take this action, and has therefore, left his medical decisions in the hands of his estranged wife.

If you or someone you know has questions about estate planning or requires assistance in creating or modifying an estate plan, contact the experienced attorneys at Chepenik Trushin LLP, who are ready, willing, and able to assist with your estate planning needs.