Most people are aware of the importance of having an estate plan in place. Despite that knowledge, many people do not yet have a plan. Often, the explanation centers around the belief that an estate plan is only needed if you have a significant estate to worry about like the rich and famous do. The truth of the matter is that every adult needs an estate plan. Moreover, the rich and famous are just as likely to make mistakes with their estate plans as the average person is, as the following stories highlight.
Failing to Plan
- Prince— known simply as “Prince,” the “Purple Rain” singer died in 2016 at the age of 57. The world was shocked to learn that Prince didn’t even leave a basic Last Will and Testament behind, meaning a judge has to decide how to distribute his estimated $300 million fortune. Prince didn’t have any known children, but did have six siblings. Not surprisingly, other alleged heirs have come out of the woodwork as well, including a federal inmate claiming to be Prince’s son.
- Jimi Hendrix – right up there with Prince as far as musical talent and notoriety, Hendrix died at a young age back in 1970 in London, England. Hendrix also died without so much as a Will in place. English law dictated that his father inherit his estate – and then his father died in 2002. By then, his estate had grown into a veritable fortune, and keeps growing. At that point, a battle began over control of the estate, extending the time his estate has taken to probate to over 30 years.
Failing to Update
- Paul Walker — Famous primarily for his role in the extremely popular “Fast and Furious” movie series, Paul Walker died (ironically) in a car crash in 2014 at the age of 40. Although Walker did create an estate plan, he did so before he became one of the rich and famous. Not only was his estate considerably larger and more valuable than his original estate plan anticipated at the time of his death, but Walker also had a daughter after his original plan was created who was obviously not mentioned in that plan. Consequently, his estate was more difficult and costly to probate and his daughter didn’t get what Walker would likely have wanted her to have.
- Whitney Houston – Houston also executed a Will a long time before both her rise to stardom and her death. It was also executed one month before the 1993 birth of her only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown. When Houston died, she left behind a $20 million fortune and an 18 year old daughter. Not knowing what her estate would be worth down the road, Houston’s original Will left Bobbi ten percent of the estate when she turned 21 and the remainder at a later time. Bobbi wasn’t prepared to handle that kind of money and died in 2015.
- Michael Jackson – the “King of Pop” died in 2009, setting off a string of ongoing court battles over his estate, now worth $600 million. Among Jackson’s biggest estate planning mistakes was creating a trust but failing to fund it. Absent a properly funded trust, Jackson’s beneficiaries have wound up numerous times in probate court, the estate is still open, and all things concerning it are subject to court approval.
- Warren Burger — Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger died in 1995. Although it seems unbelievable, the man who once presided over the highest court in the land failed to seek out professional assistance when creating his estate plan. On the contrary, Burger left behind nothing more than a 176 word Last Will and Testament he wrote himself. Critics have had a field day with Burger’s “estate plan,” pointing out everything from misspelled words to the failure to plan for the impact of taxes on his estate that may have cost his children close to half a million dollars in federal gift and estate taxes.
Contact New York Estate Planning Lawyers
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about your own estate plan, contact the New York estate planning lawyers at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.