Celebrities give us a lot of good lessons about what NOT to do.
Take their estate planning blunders, for example. There have been a few cases where a famous person failed to plan for their death. As a result, settling their estates caused lots of headaches for their heirs.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Wise Guy Fails To Avoid Gift Tax
James Gandolfini. The Sopranos actor left 20 percent of his estate to his wife, but if he’d left more of his estate to his her, the estate tax on that gift would have been avoided. He failed to maximize the tax savings in his estate. Consequently, 55% of his total estate, including a significant art collection, went to pay estate taxes. Ouch!
You Won’t ‘Feel Good’ Without Clear Language
James Brown. The Godfather of Soul left the copyrights to his music to an educational foundation, his tangible assets to his children and $2 million to educate his grandchildren. However, because of ambiguous language in his estate planning documents, his girlfriend and her children sued. Six years later and after the payment of millions in estate taxes, his estate was finally settled.
Even A Smooth Criminal Needs To Fund His Trust
Michael Jackson. The King of Pop had a trust—but he never funded it in his lifetime. As a result, his heirs have faced a long and costly battle in the California Probate Court over control of his estate.
Make Sure Your Plan Isn’t A Spruce Goose
Howard Hughes. The business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot and philanthropist, known as one of the most influential and financially successful individuals in the world, wanted his $2.5 billion fortune left to medical research. However, no valid written will was discovered at his death. So what happened? Instead, his wealth was divided among his 22 cousins. Because Hughes Aircraft Co. was gifted to the Hughes Medical Institute prior to his death, it wasn’t included in his estate. Womp womp.
Even Science Fiction Authors Can Fail To Predict The Future
Michael Crichton. When he passed away, the famous author was survived by his pregnant fifth wife. His son was born after his death, but since his will and trust didn’t anticipate a child being born after his death, his daughter from a previous marriage tried to exclude his son from his estate. While the California statute would have included his son in his estate, as pretermitted heir, the author had language that specifically overrode the statute and excluded all heirs not otherwise mentioned in his will—failing to anticipate that he’d die with an unborn son—whom he didn’t mention in the will.
Get Your Wishes On Record
Casey Kasem. The legendary DJ’s wife and the children of his prior marriage fought over his end-of-life care and even the disposition of his body. It made for an embarrassing scene, including kidnapping and theft of his corpse.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way (To Pass Your Money To Your Loved Ones)
Prince and Aretha Franklin. Both music superstars died without a will, so their families were each involved in very public—and in the case of Prince, very contentious—estate fights.
Even If You Aren’t A Superstar, You Can Learn From These Mistakes
If you have an estate plan in place, review your existing documents to make sure they conform to your wishes. Consider these mistakes of celebrities when you’re creating a comprehensive estate plan.