Many of our clients marry, divorce, remarry, etc. You depend on us as advisors to help protect your assets for the benefit of loved ones. Sometimes, it’s helpful to tell you a story about what could go wrong if you don’t update your plans when you make major life or relationship changes.
There’s the old familiar tale of a successful business owner who ends a longtime marriage and sets up house with a new much younger wife. The tycoon’s ex-wife, who supported him loyally during the many years he built up a fortune, is cut off financially- or is given a pittance of a settlement or inheritance upon his death.
But that’s not the version that went down recently in a Dallas courtroom, according to a Bloomberg article about the culmination of a five-year legal war between two women over the estate of billionaire tortilla king Roberto Gonzalez Barrera.
Instead, in this version of a second-marriage story, the first wife came out victorious. Thanks to multiple court rulings, Graciela Moreno Hernandez managed to hold onto the main ownership seat of Gruma SAB de CV, which is the world’s largest tortilla manufacturing company with a market value of about $6.1 billion. You can find one of the company’s major brands, Mission tortillas, in your local grocery store.
Barrera’s second wife, 1990’s Mexican soap opera star and singer Lorena Tassinari, has received nothing for her three years in the relationship that ended with Barrera’s death in 2012 at age 81.
Barrera died of pancreatic cancer. Tassinari filed a claim that as his surviving spouse, she was entitled to a share of the fortune Barrera left to his family. She argued that Barrera and his first wife were divorced, but documents showed that a Mexican court had declared the divorce null and void because the first wife had never been served with court documents. She did not appear in court and she was never represented in the divorce proceedings by an attorney, Bloomberg reported.
Whether Barrera knew he was not legally married to his second wife is uncertain. Perhaps he believed his divorce to Moreno was solid and that his second wife would automatically inherit a portion of his fortune. Who knows?
What is certain is that he didn’t update his estate plan to account for Tassinari and that lack of planning opened a big can of Mexican jumping beans.
Update the plan
The Barrera family’s drama has played out in public courtrooms in both Mexico and Texas, but it could have been avoided if the tortilla tycoon had simply updated his estate plan to include a provision for his second “wife.”
Tassinari has appealed the latest ruling against her, and so the story isn’t quite over. But it’s not looking good for her.
If you are married, divorced, or looking to remarry, take the opportunity to have a conversation with an attorney that is a Certified Legal Specialist in estate planning about the importance of updating your estate plan after major life changes. We can confirm whether all your legal documents are in order, but you have to make the call, and let us know about the changes in your life.