The Wills of famous celebrities can teach us some valuable lessons about what NOT to do. It is common for the rich and famous to have estate plans, but celebrities make mistakes too and sometimes they can be costly.
In this article, we will dive into some more famous estate plans and look at where they went wrong.
Jim Morrison died at age 27 and left behind a two-page Will. He was unmarried and had no children and left his entire estate to his girlfriend at the time.
If his girlfriend was no longer alive the estate was to be passed down to his siblings. His girlfriend, Pamela Courson, herself died only 3 years later and the estate was passed on to her parents.
However Morrison’s parents, from whom he had been estranged at the time of his death, were upset with this and claimed that Morrison had lacked capacity when he made his Will, and they also disputed the legitimacy of his common law marriage to Courson (what would today be termed de facto or domestic partners).
The dispute was settled, and the respective parents of both Morrison and Courson divided the estate equally.
Morrison could have done a lot better in his estate planning to reduce the risk that his estranged parents received any part of his estate. Morrison’s beloved siblings missed out altogether.
Michael Jackson died in 2009. While he had a trust, he never funded it during his lifetime. This is a surprisingly common occurrence.
This led to a long and costly battle in the California Probate Court over control of his estate.
There were also lawsuits against HBO, Sony and the IRS.
There were arguments that the named executors in the Will were not suitable to act, and may have conflicts of interest.
Jackson had tried to protect his family from these types of disputes by creating a Family Trust.
Trusts (unlike Wills) are private documents that the public does not have a right to see, so we may never know how Jackson’s property ultimately passes.
Of course, it is widely assumed that his children are the primary beneficiaries.
If Jackson had properly funded that Trust — by placing all of his property, rights and other assets into it — then the trustees of that Trust would control everything, not the executors of his Estate.
In other words, very few of the court hearings would be necessary, and the matter would be handled in private by those he trusted to do so.
Probate courts don’t have to oversee what happens with a Trust, but they do for Wills and estates.
Talented singer and actress, Whitney Houston, had a Will when she died in 2012. However it had not been updated since 1993, soon after her daughter Bobbi Kristina was born.
During the years in between, she went through a divorce and had other family and financial changes.
Under the old-but-still-valid 2012 Will, Bobbi Kristina received 10% of Whitney’s estate outright when she turned 21. She was due to receive the rest later in her life, however Bobbi Kristina herself died in 2015 at age 22, and so missed out on most of Whitney’s estate.
One wonders whether Bobbi’s sudden inheritance of a large sum of money contributed to her early demise.
If Whitney had updated her Will, she could have considered whether her daughter was mature enough to handle that large amount of money and could have decided who was to receive the estate and trust if Bobbi passed away.
Instead, the remainder of Whitney’s estate went to her two brothers and to her mother, Cissy Houston.
Weird Wills – Are They Legal?
A substantial percentage of “weird Wills” end up being contested in Court, causing family unnecessary stress and delay, and eroding the estate with massive Court and legal costs. Be careful.
If you are thinking about writing something ‘weird’ into your Will, you’d better seek legal advice first.
Your Will and its contents is a serious matter. Isn’t it worth ensuring that it delivers the outcome that you want?
Should you write something in it that, however inadvertently, invalidates it you might die intestate – leaving your loved ones with the inevitable emotional and financial fallout of this to deal with.
If you don’t have a Will or have one that needs updating we offer a cost effective and convenient estate planning service.
Our specialist expert consultants can come to you and our rates are very competitive. To learn more about our services please call 08 8212 7233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What you can do
Reviewing and updating your estate planning documents when there is a significant change in your life is crucial.
Genders and Partners is the oldest law firm in South Australia, established 1848.
Contact us to learn how to protect yourself, your family and your assets through modern integrated estate planning solutions, by visiting our website today and schedule a free no obligation telephone consultation to find out how they can help you and yours.
Remember – any mistakes you make in your estate planning documents won’t become apparent until after it’s too late for you to fix them. Get proper advice, and do it right.
It is also vitally important that you keep your estate plan up to date – it is not a set-and-forget exercise.
To learn how to protect yourself, your family and your assets, by creating a professionally-made estate plan, claim your FREE 15 minute Telephone Consultation
Weird Probate Issues Articles Series
- Weird Probate Issues
- More Weird Probate Issues
- Weird Probate Issues Part 3
- Weird Probate Issues Part 4
- Weird Probate Issues Part 5
- Weird Probate Issues Part 6
- Weird Probate Issues Part 7
- Weird Probate Issues Part 8
- Weird Probate Issues Part 9
- Weird Probate Issues Part 10
More Probate Resources
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- The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes, how they can cost your family a fortune, and How to Avoid Them.
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