HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — The will Elizabeth Edwards signed days before her death last month made no mention of her estranged husband and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards.
The document Elizabeth Edwards signed Dec. 1, six days before her death, also named her eldest child, lawyer Cate Edwards, as the executor of her estate.
In the will, filed in Orange County Superior Court in North Carolina, Edwards left personal effects, furniture, automobiles and other property to be divided among her children — Cate, 12-year-old Emma Claire and 10-year-old Jack.
"Those are items that have sentimental attachment, like a grandmother’s engagement ring or antiques she’d want to go only to her children and no one else," said Andrea Chomakos, an estate planning attorney who was not involved with the Edwards family. "I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that John was disinherited. No one will know whether he was or not."
Other documents accompanying her will valued Elizabeth Edwards’ estate at $496,000 in cash, securities, household furnishings, vehicles and ownership in businesses. She also owned real estate worth an additional $1 million, and she controlled a trust that may hold more assets.
John Edwards — who made millions as a trial lawyer before beginning his political career — could be a beneficiary of that trust, the details of which are not public, Chomakos said.
In fact, inheritance laws in North Carolina and most other states bar a spouse from completely cutting off even an estranged spouse unless specified in a separation or other agreement between them, said Chomakos, an attorney for Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein in Charlotte.
A death certificate said Elizabeth Edwards died from the incurable breast cancer that returned in 2007 as John Edwards campaigned for the presidency. The cancer was first diagnosed in 2004, a day after the Democratic ticket that included John Edwards as the vice presidential candidate lost to George W. Bush.
John and Elizabeth Edwards separated early last year after 32 years of marriage. John Edwards admitted he fathered a child during an affair with a former campaign worker.
The Edwardses had several tumultuous years leading up to her death, struggling through his admission of the affair and eventual acknowledgment that he’d fathered a child with his mistress in the middle of his 2008 presidential campaign. Elizabeth Edwards said she worked for two years trying to reinvent her role as a spouse before making the difficult decision to separate from him.
The Edwardses were law school sweethearts who married just days after they took the bar exam together in the summer of 1977. They had four children together, including a son who died at age 16. Although the couple had separated, John Edwards was at her side around the clock as her health deteriorated. He did not speak at her funeral.