Estate planning is a daunting task for anyone, but you’d think world-famous celebrities could shell out for a decent estate lawyer.
Unfortunately many don’t, leaving a legacy of family feuds, court cases and improper distribution of income.
Danielle and Andy Mayoras’ new book Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights chronicles this pandemic among celebrities. Along the way, pick up some tips on planning your own estate.
Critical error: doing nothing
If you do not plan your own estate while alive, you could end up like Jimi Hendrix and have someone that you barely knew controlling your legacy. Hendrix's estate remained in court for over 30 years after he died.
Critical error: doing it yourself
Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger created his own will with 176 words but he left out key provisions and his family paid the price.
Critical Error: not updating
Heath Ledger never updated his will with the birth of his daughter, leading to chaos and family members fighting through the press.
Critical error: taking shortcuts
Princess Diana used a 'letter of wishes' leaving personal items to her godchildren instead of specifying her wishes in a will or trust.
Critical error: forgetting to tell loved ones where their estate documents are located
Olympian Flo Jo's original will couldn't be located and her probate estate took over 4 years to close.
Critical error: failing to finish what you started
Michael Jackson created a trust, but never fully funded it, defeating a primary purpose of having a trust.
This led to public family fights in probate court.
Critical error: making verbal promises
Marlon Brando's housekeeper said Brando made oral promises of a home and continued employment which led to two separate lawsuits after Brando's death.
Critical error: procrastinating
Sonny Bono passed away at the age of 62 without a will in place. This lead to many complications, including a secret love child who surfaced and wanted part of Bono's estate.
Critical error: leaving your intent unclear
Whitney Houston's father, John, named Whitney as a beneficiary on a large life insurance policy, but it was unclear if he wanted Whitney to keep the money or to repay money owed to her step-mother. This confusion led to a two-year court battle which is ongoing.
Critical error: choosing an untrustworthy executor or trustee
Doris Duke chose an unsavory trustee - her butler - to manager her one billion dollar foundation. When he used assets for himself, it lead to an expensive fight in court that cost the charities Duke wanted to benefit.
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