Michael Crichton’s Probate Disaster and the Problem of Kids Born After Dad’s Death?
5 min read

Michael Crichton’s Probate Disaster and the Problem of Kids Born After Dad’s Death?

Who is Michael Chrichton? How Do I avoid disinheriting after-born children? This article explains Chrincton's situation with his estate and how you can avoid problems with the distribution of your assets! Keep reading to learn more!

Share this article:

Who Was Michael Crichton?

Michael Crichton (1942-2008) was an American author, physician, and filmmaker. He is best known for his thrilling and science fiction novels, many of which have been adapted into successful films and television series. Crichton was born on October 23, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois.

Crichton began his writing career while studying at Harvard Medical School, where he published his first novel, "Odds On," under a pseudonym. After completing his medical degree, he decided to pursue a career as a full-time writer and achieved widespread success in the literary world.

Some of Crichton's most notable works include:

  1. "The Andromeda Strain" (1969): A techno-thriller novel about a team of scientists investigating a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism.

  2. "Jurassic Park" (1990): A science fiction novel that explores the consequences of cloning dinosaurs and the disastrous events that unfold when a theme park is overrun by the prehistoric creatures.

  3. "Sphere" (1987): A psychological thriller set in the depths of the ocean, where a team of scientists encounters a mysterious spacecraft and a sentient alien presence.

  4. "Congo" (1980): An adventure novel involving an expedition to the Congo Basin in search of a lost city and a valuable diamond mine.

  5. "Timeline" (1999): A time-travel adventure where a group of historians is transported back to medieval France.

  6. “ER” (1994): A television show about what happens in a Chicago emergency room. Crichton wrote a screenplay for a movie about an ER in 1974 but it was never made. NBC made it a TV show in 1994 and Crichton won an Emmy Award.

  7. “Westworld” (1973): A sci-fi Western about an amusement park with androids that malfunction. “Westworld” also became an HBO series.

Crichton's works often combined scientific and technological elements with suspense and high-stakes action, earning him a large and dedicated fan base. His writing style was known for its meticulous research and attention to detail, which added authenticity to his stories.

Crichton’s Untimely Death 

Michael Crichton passed away on November 4, 2008, in Los Angeles after a battle with lymphoma. His impact on the literary and entertainment world continues through his influential works and their adaptations. “Jurassic Park” continues to be one of the world’s most durable cinematic brands, with multiple sequels and games. At the time of his death, Crichton had a book deal that would pay him $30 million for two forthcoming novels..

Crichton was married five times. He had a 20-year old daughter from a previous marriage. He was married to his fifth and final wife at the time of his death, and he had prepared a Will and a trust. His second wife, Sherri Alexander, had agreed to a prenuptial agreement limiting her ability to inherit from his estate. She would be paid $9 million over nine years. It seems like Crichton followed the instructions of legal professionals to the letter. So what went wrong? 

Well, Crichton’s fifth wife was six months pregnant with their son when he died. The Will was written in 2007 and Crichton never updated his Will to include the after-born son. 

What is an “After-Born” Child?

In the context of estate planning, an “after born” child refers to a child who is born or adopted after the creation of a person's Will or estate plan. Estate planning involves making decisions about the distribution of assets and property after a person's death.

When a person makes an estate plan, they typically designate beneficiaries and determine how their assets will be distributed among them. However, if a child is born or adopted after the estate plan is established, they may not be included as a beneficiary or receive a share of the estate unless specific provisions are made to accommodate them. In Crichton’s case, his son wasn’t born until the father had already died. 

The Crichton Legal Fight

Crichton’s Will was probated in California. Like most states, California has laws that are meant to protect children who are omitted from Wills so that they can still inherit. In many states, children who are born later or who are accidentally omitted from the Will can inherit an equal share as their siblings. So did this protect Crichton’s after-born son?

Well, here’s the issue. The Will said:  "I have intentionally made no provision in this will for any of my heirs or relatives who are not herein mentioned or designated, and I hereby generally and specifically disinherit every person claiming to be or who may be determined to be my heir-at-law, except as otherwise mentioned in this will."

That clause specifies that if someone is not named in the Will it is because he intentionally left them out. These clauses are in fact used to disinherit people from Wills. Why would  Crichton have had that in there in the first place? Apparently, he was known as a ladies man and wanted to prevent people from claiming they were his long-lost children.

Crichton’s wife filed a petition in court arguing that he clearly intended to update his estate plan to give his son the same amount that he was leaving his daughter. She also wanted access to Crichton’s money to raise the child - over and above the $9 million. Crichton’s daughter fought the petition. Eventually, a court ruled against the daughter, finding that her brother was entitled to one-third of the estate. This legal battle cost the Crichton estate significant costs and pitted the daughter against the brother. And it essentially allowed Alexander to do an end-run around the prenup, since she was allowed to manage the money that was left to her son, which was way more than $9 million.

How to Avoid Disinheriting After-Born Children

To address the inclusion of after-born children, people can choose to update their estate plan by making appropriate amendments or additions. It’s easy to update your Will with a codicil for example. You can also write a brand new Will reflecting the desired distribution of assets, including provisions for after-born children. In this situation, you’ll want to be sure you consult with the appropriate professionals to make sure that your changes are valid in your state, especially since each state has different legal requirements.

By making provisions for after-born children in an estate plan, you can ensure that these children are treated fairly and receive a share of the estate along with other beneficiaries. Failing to address the inclusion of after-born children may lead to complications or disputes among family members after the person's passing, potentially resulting in unintended consequences or litigation.

It's worth noting that estate planning laws and regulations vary by jurisdiction, so it's important to consult with a qualified professional familiar with the laws in your specific area to ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive, up-to-date, and in accordance with applicable legal requirements.

Scroll Down
Share this article:
Let’s begin! First, what’s your name?

Your name that’s stated on your driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.