Learning from the Stars: Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes

Estate planning is a complicated endeavor, and you shouldn’t try to draft a will, set up trusts, or divide your possessions without the help of a probate attorney. There is a lot to learn about probate, and there isn’t much room for trial and error. One significant mistake could send you into ruin or cause your children to pay. If you are planning your estate at present, you will want to be careful to take the necessary steps and cover all grounds. If not, you could end in a similar situation to one of the following celebrities who made serious mistakes when planning for the future. According to Forbes Magazine, we can learn a lot from the superstars who did things wrong.

For one, we can learn from Sonny Bono. The former musician and politician was a busy man who was constantly travelling from concert to debate without much time to spare. In fact, Bono packed himself so tight that he never even had time to draft a will. When the music legend died at 62 in a skiing accident, he left behind his ex-wife Cher who wanted the majority of his estate. He also left behind a child that was fathered out of wedlock who also came to sue for a portion of the inheritance. What followed as a massively complicated probate procedure as family fought to seek finances from Bono’s estate. The lesson men and women can learn from this superstar is that it’s never too early to draft a will. We never know when we are going to die, and need to be prepared just in case a disaster happens and leaves our family confused about who has the right to inherit.

Another superstar that we can learn from is Princess Diana. The princess was beloved by all before her tragic death in 1997 in a car accident. The elegant woman wrote a “letter of wishes” before her death, but never had the wishes created into a will. According to Forbes, she asked her executors to leave some personal possessions to each of her sons and godchildren. The value of the possessions was around 100,000 pounds, but by the time it was divided among the godchildren she had mentioned, they all received mere trinkets. If she had created a more detailed and legal will, Diana’s heirs may have received more money. If you have wishes for your possessions, make sure that you place them into a legal will or trust if you want them to be carried out.

We can also learn about estate planning from Jimi Hendrix’s example. The guitar legend died at 27 and didn’t have a will in place. Because of this, the state law awarded his entire fortune to his father. The father then left everything to his adopted daughter when he passed away. Jimi Hendrix was very close to his brother, but the sibling never saw a dime of Hendrix’s fortune because of the way that the court apportioned his estate. Even if you are young and single, you should create a small will that will detail what will happen to fortune is you should pass away suddenly. We can also learn from famed author Stieg Larsson, who is best known for his novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This author died suddenly and did not have a will.

Because his estate was intestate, his father and brother were awarded all of his fortune. At the time of his death, Larsson had a serious girlfriend who did not obtain a cent of the money. If you are in a relationship but are not married to your significant other, then you will want to take care to make a will and include them in it if you would like for them to obtain your fortune. Many times your partner won’t have the same legal protections as a spouse would, so it’s important that you specifically state that you want to will your fortune to that individual.

Marlon Brando from the Godfather also serves as an example of what not to do during estate planning. Brando allegedly told a woman named Angela Borlaza that she could keep the house that she lived in even though it was kept under Brando’s name for tax purposes. She also claimed that she could continue being employed by a company that Brando owned. While Brando may have told Borlaza these promises with the full intention to keep them, things became complicated when the investigators could not find any documentation to back up the claims. If you are going to promise people possessions or employment that you want to extend until after your death, then you will want to document that in a legally recognized will or testament. You may want to sign the document in the presence of a lawyer or notary in order to prove that you have full intention to keep the promise.

We can also learn a thing or two about estate planning from famed actor Heath Ledger. The famous Joker from Batman: Dark Knight created a will but failed to update it after the birth of his daughter. According to the press, Ledger’s will declared that he would give all of his possessions and fortune at the time of this death to his parents and sister. His daughter believed that she deserved the money, and it caused a large fight that was largely publicized. It is important to update your will often and always create a new document after a significant life “milestone.” These milestones can include marriage, birth of a child, adoption, death of a family member, or another important action.