Americans love to follow the lives of celebrities, particularly when they make mistakes. Who for example, hasn’t heard of Anna Nicole Smith or Tiger Woods? Just as in their personal lives, celebrities can teach us a lot about mistakes to avoid in estate planning. You might think that with all of their resources, celebrities would be the last persons to make mistakes in planning their estates. It is amazing however, to learn how common it is for celebrities to make very poor estate planning decisions. Here are a few examples which just might surprise you:
1. No estate plan. After Sonny Bono’s untimely death following a skiing accident, his wife was left with to deal with all kinds of complications because he died without a will or trust.
2. Failing to update an estate plan. When actor Heath Ledger died at age 28, he had failed to update his will to include his daughter. Instead, he left everything to his parents. Thankfully a court battle was ultimately avoided when his father agreed that his daughter would inherit everything.
3. Be careful who you choose to handle your affairs. Doris Duke named her butler as trustee of her foundation and personal representative of her estate. He performed so poorly that he was eventually removed from both positions by a judge.
4. Be sure to fully fund your trust. Michael Jackson had a trust, but he failed to fund all of his assets into his trust.
5. Do not write your own will or codicil. Baseball legend Ted Williams, Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, actor Gary Coleman and painter Thomas Kincaid all wrote their own wills or codicils. In each case, unnecessary taxes or family disputes resulted.
While most of us have very little in common with celebrities, we can learn some valuable lessons from their all to common estate planning mistakes. Whether its procrastination or other poor decisions, by taking some simple steps, we can avoid similar miscues. If there is one celebrity example to follow, take a lesson from the king of rock ‘n’ roll – Elvis Presley who had a will and a testamentary trust established to provide for his family. Be sure that your planning is sufficient – see an experienced elder law attorney today. Just like the king, your family will say “thankyouverymuch.”