10 Celebrities Who Made Terrible Mistakes When Planning Their Estate

michael jackson tbi

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.

Jimi Hendrix

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Justice Warren Burger

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Heath Ledger

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Princess Diana

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo Jo)

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Michael Jackson

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Marlon Brando

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Sonny Bono

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

John Houston (Whitney Houston's father)

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Doris Duke

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.

Source: Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights

Now check out some celebrities with another problem...

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