The lives of the rich and famous proceed in the public eye. Press coverage of their doings is no longer only the province of the tabloids, but also appears in more mainstream magazines, TV news outlets and websites. Most celebrity lives, however, do not provide us lessons for our own lives. In death, however, there is much to learn from their mistakes.
The main lesson is clear: Plan well for what you want to happen to your property after you are gone. This is the general rule. Herein lie some lessons we can learn from celebrities who did not properly plan ahead:
Plan now, for you do not know when you will pass on
A good example not to follow is that of Sonny Bono. Known for his singing and acting career, and finally for his political life in as a member of Congress, Bono died during a skiing accident in 1998. He died without a will, leaving the disposition of his estate according to intestacy rules of state law, not his own wishes.
Review your estate plan regularly
The talented young actor, Heath Ledger, died when he was only twenty-eight. He already had a will from years earlier, before his life changed due to fatherhood and professional and financial success. His will did not provide for his girlfriend or child. Life changes, and estate plans often should adjust with life.
Implement a power of attorney, just in case
In the years leading up to her 2012 death, classic R&B singer Etta James suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Members of her family obtained a conservatorship over her estate while she was still alive. They had to negotiate with each other over her care and locked horns over control of her estate. If Ms. James had signed a power of attorney appointing one person to control her affairs, it would likely have saved angst, family tension, and litigation.
Use professional help creating your estate plan
Princess Diana did have a formal will drawn up and executed. Later, she wrote a “letter of wishes” to the executors of her estate, detailing her desire to pass some of her inheritance to her godchildren. Unfortunately, the court struck down her letter of wishes. An attorney could have helped make her wishes enforceable by incorporating them into her will.
An estate-planning attorney uses numerous tools including wills, powers of attorney, and various types of trusts to help craft an estate plan that fulfills your wishes after you can no longer make them. A proper estate plan can save taxes and minimize court costs. Contact us to learn how we can help you with your estate plan.