It can be awkward and difficult to discuss death, so many people often prefer to ignore topics such as estate planning. However, estate planning is a serious matter that needs to be considered properly and putting it off for too long could lead to repercussions. The next time one of your relatives tells you they don’t want to talk about estate planning, share these famous celebrities’ stories to get the conversation started. Presenting evidence of just how critical it is to engage in estate planning even if it’s uncomfortable could help them take the next steps.
The Marley Family Battle
You would think that with millions of dollars in assets—including royalties offering revenue for the indefinite future—at stake, more famous musicians would at least have a will in place. But sadly, you’d be wrong. Legendary stars like Bob Marley, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix failed to write down their wishes on paper at all.
Not having an estate plan can be a nightmare for your surviving family. Indeed, Marley’s heirs are still battling one another in court three decades later. If you do nothing else before you die, at least be courteous enough to your loved one’s to document your wishes and keep them out of court and conflict.
Paul Walker Died Fast and Furious at Just 40
Fast and Furious actor Paul Walker was just 40 when he died in a tragic car accident. Luckily, he had enough forethought to implement some basic estate planning. His will left his $25 million estate to his teenage daughter in a trust and appointed his mother as her legal guardian until 18. However, many would agree that 18 far too young for a someone to receive an inheritance of any size. Walker would have been far better advised to leave his assets in an ongoing trust, with financial education built in to give his daughter her best shot at a life well lived, even without him in the picture. Most inheritors, like lottery winners, are not properly educated about what to do after receiving an inheritance and they often lose their inheritance within just a few years, even when it’s millions.
Heath Ledger Didn’t Update His Estate planning
Even though actor Heath Ledger created a will shortly after becoming famous, he let it sit without updating it for more than five years. The will left his entire fortune to his parents and sister, so when he died unexpectedly in 2008, his young daughter received nothing as she hadn’t been added to the will. Fortunately, his parents made sure their granddaughter was provided for, but that might not always be the case. Creating an estate planning strategy is just the start—be sure to regularly update your documents, especially following births, deaths, divorces, new marriages, acquiring new assets, or retiring.
Paul Newman Cut Out His Daughters Too
In addition to regularly updating your estate plan, be sure your heirs know exactly what your intentions are when making such updates or your family might experience significant shock by not knowing why you did what you did.
The final update to Paul Newman’s will, which was made just a few months before his death in 2008, left his daughters with no ownership or control of Newman’s Own Foundation, his legendary charity associated with the Newman’s Own food brand. Prior versions of Newman’s will— and his own personal assurances to his family—indicated they’d have membership on the foundation’s board following his death.
Instead, the final version of his will left control of the foundation to his business partner Robert Forrester. Some allege that during his final months, when Newman was mentally unstable, he was secretly persuaded to change his estate plan to leave control of the Newman’s Own brand and foundation to Forrester. Newman’s daughters are currently fighting Forrester in court over the rights they believe they’re entitled to receive.
While changes to your estate plan may seem perfectly clear to you, make sure your family is on the same page by clearly communicating your intentions. In fact, if you are making significant changes to your plan and your children are adults, we often recommend a full family meeting to go over everything with all impacted parties.
Muhammad Ali Made His Wishes Clear
Boxing great Muhammad Ali wanted multi-day festivities to be held in his honor, including a large festival, an Islamic funeral, and a dazzling public memorial at the KFC headquarters in Louisville, KY. Given such elaborate plans, he worked with his lawyers for years, ensuring his wishes would be properly carried out.
While you probably won’t need a multi-day festivity to celebrate your life, you may have wishes regarding how your life should be memorialized when you pass or how your care should be handled if you’re incapacitated. If you eat a special diet or want certain friends by your side while incapacitated, you have to make these wishes clearly known in writing or they very well might not happen. At the same time, you should spell out exactly how you want your remains cared for and what kind of memorial service, if any, you prefer.
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll help protect your family and keep them out of conflict and court in the event of your death or incapacitation. With a Personal Family Lawyer® on your side, you’ll have access to the exact same estate planning strategies and protections that A-List celebrities use, so don’t wait another day—contact us now to get started!
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.