Forbes’s recent article entitled “Lessons to Be Learned From Failed Celebrity Estates” gives us some great examples of mistakes made by stars that left their families in a mess, estate planning-wise. Here are three:
James Gandolfini of Sopranos fame left only 20% of his estate to his wife. If he left more of his estate to his wife, the estate tax on that gift would have been avoided in his estate. These mistakes failed to maximize the tax savings.
As a result, more than half (55%) of his total estate, including a significant art collection, was liquidated and sent to the federal government to pay estate taxes.
Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton was survived by his pregnant fifth wife. His son was born after his death, but because his will failed to anticipate a child being born after his death, his daughter from a previous marriage tried to exclude that baby from his estate.
The California statute would have included his son in his estate as pretermitted heir, but Crichton included language that specifically overrode that statute and excluded all heirs not otherwise mentioned in his will. He failed to update his will with the new child on the way— not anticipating that he would die with an unborn son, which he didn’t mention in the will.
Doris Duke, heir to a tobacco fortune, left her $1.2 billion fortune, including an extensive art and historic real estate holdings, to her foundation when she died in 1993. Duke’s butler was named to be in charge of the foundation, excluding her surprised family members. Because of these mistakes there were a number of lawsuits claiming mismanagement and costing millions in legal fees.
You can see that even the most famous and the wealthiest people have failed to properly plan for their demise and have inflicted unnecessary pain, headaches and expense of their families.
If you have an estate plan in place, review your existing documents with an experienced estate planning attorney to make certain that they still accomplish your wishes. Don’t repeat the mistakes of these celebrities.
Reference: Forbes (June 18, 2021) “Lessons to Be Learned from Failed Celebrity Estates”