Wills and Estate Mistakes of the Rich and Famous

Celebrity deaths immediately capture the public’s attention but quickly fade from the spotlight as popular culture marches on. The aftermath of a celebrity death can be far more interesting, primarily because of the estate planning mistakes that many celebrities make in their wills.

Heath Ledger is a prime example. The Oscar-winning actor whose portrayal of the Joker in the Batman trilogy created a Will before he died in 2008. He left his entire $20 million estate to his parents and sisters, but gave nothing to his daughter, who had been born after Ledger wrote the will. The actor’s relatives remedied this omission by putting significant assets into a trust for her. The lesson here is that Wills need to be updated periodically to reflect changes in circumstances.

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, also created an estate plan before his untimely death. That plan included a trust, but many of Jackson’s assets were left outside of that trust. Because he failed to follow through on his plan, Jackson’s estate has been in and out of probate court several times.

Unlike Jackson and Ledger, the musician, Prince, had no Will or estate plan at the time of his death in 2016. Without a Will, his assets are set to be distributed to heirs per the intestacy rules in the State of Minnesota, but a substantial portion of those assets will be depleted by legal fees and government estate taxes.

This list of celebrity Will mistakes goes on and on as fame and glory blind the rich and famous to planning for their own mortality. Fortunately, we can take some instruction from their mistakes not only to make our own Wills and estate plans, but to keep those plans fully up-to-date. Ford + Bergner LLP helps residents of Texas and other states to develop estate plans that maximize the value of their assets for their heirs while minimizing estate taxes and probate costs and expenses. Please contact us for assistance with your own will and estate plan.