Some Cautionary Celebrity Tales; Why Careful Estate Planing Is Important

Some Cautionary Celebrity Tales; Why Careful Estate Planing Is Important

Have An Estate Plan

Even celebrities die without wills. Picasso’s unplanned estate paid an extra $30 million in taxes. Prince’s $300 million estate faced unnecessary significant taxes and disputes, with false claims by alleged heirs, including a convicted felon. James Dean died at 24 without a will so his assets passed to his estranged father. Steve McNair, the NFL quarterback murdered by a girlfriend, left a $20 million estate and no will. He died leaving a wife and their two children, and two children from a prior marriage, complicating his estate. Martin Luther King’s estate’s disputes continued for 50 years, again due to the lack of a will. Jimi Hendrix died with no will. His father inherited his $66 million estate. His father left it all to his own adopted daughter and nothing to Hendrix’s natural brother.

important estate planningPlan Early, Update Your Plan And Use Trusts

Robin Williams created multiple trusts for his family, which also kept his assets private after death. Unlike Philip Seymour Hoffman, who had a will but disregarded advice of lawyers and advisors to create trusts because he did not want “trust fund kids”. This resulted in large estate taxes and full public disclosure of his estate plan. Paul Walker died at 40 with a will. But he had failed to update it and his wishes at 40 may have been very different than at 28. Heath Ledger also had an old will, made before his daughter’s birth, leaving everything to his parents and sister.

Plan For Taxes

Joe Robbie, owner of the Miami Dolphins and the stadium, expected his family business to remain in the family. Family feuds and an estate tax liability caused a sale of the team and stadium for $109 million to pay taxes of $43 million. Fifteen years later these assets sold for $1 billion. The Wrigley family sold the Cubs for $20.5 million in 1981 to pay taxes. The value 30 years later was $2 billion. Tom Clancy’s estate planning failed to consider taxes and his children’s share of $28.5 million paid all $12 million in taxes, while their step mother’s share of $60 million paid no taxes.

Avoid Post Death Conflicts

Audrey Hepburn left valuable memorabilia to be divided equally between her two sons with provisions for a charity. The sons could not agree and lawsuits followed. Princess Diana left a “letter of wishes” providing personal property to her godchildren. It was not binding and they received nothing. Careful drafting can eliminate or greatly reduce personal property and other disputes.

Jerry Garcia’s estate was $10 million. Ex-wife, Mountain Girl, sought $4.6 million based on a one paragraph divorce agreement which she drafted. His office manager sued for half of the royalties from Cherry Garcia ice cream. Kirk Kerkorian, billionaire casino owner, died at 98 with a $3 billion estate. His second wife (an 18 day marriage) had sought $320,000 a month support for “their” daughter Kira, who he learned had a different father. Although his will provided $8.5 million to Kira, she contested it. His third wife (of 441 days) Una challenged their pre-nuptial agreement instead seeking $1 billion (over $2 million per day of marriage). An ex-girlfriend sued his estate for $20 million in promised support which she drafted.

Anticipate The Unexpected

Jackie Kennedy died in 1994. Her will provided that her estate ($50-$100 million) would pass either to her children or if they disclaimed to a trust for charity and her grandchildren. Her children did not disclaim and apparently chose to pay more estate taxes. While she purposely provided this control for them, she may have been surprised at the outcome. Jim Morrison died in 1971 with a will, leaving all to his girlfriend. She died in 1974 without a will so her parents, who hated Morrison, inherited everything.