Mickey Rooney’s Estate Plan Mess: What You Can Learn

Mickey Rooney, who died April 6 at age 93, became a top box-office draw in the 1930s and 1940s by starring in feel-good movies.

The story of what has happened after his death isn’t quite as sunny, though.

Rooney, who married eight times during his life, left behind a rather messy estate plan.

Some of the issues include:

  • Who will claim his remains: As you might expect from someone who had eight different family arrangements over his life, Rooney’s personal situation is complicated. If he had specified who would claim his remains, there might be no issue. As it stands, several different people have come forward, claiming that it is their honor and responsibility to take custody of his body. It’s a rather undignified affair, to put it mildly.
  • Where Rooney will be buried: Although he and a former wife purchased cemetery plots together, his stepson is claiming that Rooney changed his mind and would prefer to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery or a Hollywood cemetery. Regrettably, Rooney’s estate planning documents do not clarify what his end-of-life wishes were.
  • Who gets what: Although Rooney’s estate was believed to be worth just $18,000 after his death, he reportedly settled a lawsuit with a former manager for an amount believed to be “in the millions.” Various ex-wives, children and step-children are now arguing over what may actually be fictional money, since Rooney’s estate plans didn’t properly reflect his complex personal situation.

Now, you probably don’t have as complex a personal life as Rooney did. Even so, this story illustrates how even well-intentioned people can complicate things when an estate plan isn’t clear and specific. It should serve as a lesson for why estate planning must be thorough, explicit and comprehensive.

If you’re interested in speaking with an estate planning attorney, please feel free to contact Ford+Bergner.