CHICAGO: Another billionaire (and husband/father) commits suicide: Did mogul Steven Good have a will?

Steven Good, Chicago real estate titan and business associate of Donald Trump has been found dead of a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head. He was sitting in his Jaguar when police found him in the woods in Chicago. Mr. Good is a friend of Donald Trump – the New York real estate mogul and TV personality (also reported to be experiencing his own financial troubles.) According to CNN, “Good was the chairman and chief executive officer of Sheldon Good & Co., a major U.S. real estate auction company.”
Aside from the sadness that this string of suicide brings (only yesterday German Billionaire Adolf Merckle committed suicide by walking in front of a fast moving train), it also brings up questions about marriage, inheritance, wills and other matters that affect the family.
By all accounts, Steven Good was a good man who was loved by his wife and family. And many pe0ple express shock over this suicide, blaming the ruinous turn of the economy. But as one psychiatrist said, “to limit it only to financial reasons would be a mistake.” Mr. Good, Mr. Merckle and others like them were probably experiencing other problems including family or health issues.
In New York, a spouse is ordinarily entitled to inherit at least a portion of the estate of a spouse who dies intestate. Just like in Germany, the amount that a spouse will get is determined by whether the deceased spouse has children, whether there is a settlement agreement that details the issue of inheritance, or a prenuptial agreement.
If there are no children or other heirs, the surviving spouse will usually inherit the full amount of the deceased spouse’s estate. Actually, estate law is a very complex area of the law and in a case where there is significant wealth, if someone dies without a will (highly unlikely) the surviving spouse should consult with an estate lawyer.
Still, plan that if you are the surviving spouse of someone who dies intestate (without a will), if there are children involved, you will not inherit the full estate. You will only get a portion. The rules for determining what portion you get can be found in the Uniform Probate Code, or your state’s intestacy laws. Every states’ laws are different in this regard.
Often, a spouse will take subject to parents, children and siblings. The more children and siblings and surviving parents there are, the less a share the surviving spouse will get. These rules apply unless there is a will which expressly disinherits one of these parties.
For the sake of the spouses of Steven Good and Adolph Merckle, I hope they had wills.  By the way, there are certain items that a spouse would own off the top in the case of a spouse who dies without a will. That is, the certain items, such as certain furnishings, food items and one car valued at $15,000 or less come off the top. Everything else is put in the “estate pot” and divvied up according to either the Uniform Probate Code or your state’s intestacy laws.
It’s not a fun subject for moi, though. So consult with an estate attorney on this one.