I wrote the book on Minnesota probate.

Celebrity estate planning mistakes everyone can learn from

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2017 | Estate Planning News |

Estate planning is an arduous task for anyone, celebrities included. As a society, celebrities are held to a much higher standard. They have substantial incomes and lead extravagant lifestyles that most people could only dream of. So it’s only natural to assume their finances are tightly secured. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Too often you hear about celebrities dying without proper estate plans in place. And then watch as the battle over their estate plays out in court, sometimes taking several years to settle.

Here are four vital estate planning mistakes made by celebrities that everyone can learn from:

Keeping the location of your will a secret

Store your will in a secure location. And make sure someone knows where to find it. Don’t make the same mistake as Florence Griffith Joyner, a three-time Olympic gold athlete who had a will when she died but never told anyone where she kept it. The 38-year-old’s estate was stuck in probate for four years before it was closed.

Not updating your will

Review and update your will anytime a significant life change occurs or at least every couple years. If the last time you updated your will was when your kids were little and they’re grown up now. It’d be wise to reevaluate how it’s set up and if provisions need to be made.

Whitney Houston serves as a regrettable example of why updating your will is of the utmost importance. The late singer had a will drawn up shortly before the 1993 birth of her only daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, but never made any revisions. Houston died in 2012 leaving 18-year-old Bobbi Kristina her $20 million estate. The terms of the will granted Brown 10 percent of the estate upon her 21st birthday and the rest later on. Houston didn’t consider that her daughter might not be mature enough to handle such a large sum of money. Sadly, Bobbi Kristina battled her own drug addiction issues and drowned in 2015, she only received the 2 million dollars of her inheritance.

Heath Ledger is another example. An old will was found after his 2008 passing but it had not been updated to include his 2-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose.

Not having a will

Prince’s 2016 death sent shock waves through Minnesota as well as the rest of the world. Shortly after he passed away, it was announced that the late performer died without a will. Prince’s 300 million dollar estate is currently still in probate and will likely be distributed between his six living siblings. Is that what he would have wanted? Sadly, no one will ever know.

Making verbal promises

Don’t make verbal promises to anyone unless it’s in writing. An oral promise is almost impossible to prove in court. The only rule of thumb to follow is, if it doesn’t exist in writing it doesn’t exist.

When Marlon Brando passed away in 2004, he did have a plan in place for his 100 million dollar estate. Except, they didn’t include verbal promises Brando allegedly made to his long-time housekeeper, Angela Borlaza. She has since filed two lawsuits against his estate, claiming Brando promised to leave her his California home.