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What do Princess Di, Marlon Brando, Heath Ledger, Jimi Hendrix, and Warren Burger have in common?
Summary from Ashlea Ebeling, Forbes - Nov 24 2009
Many of the estate planning mistakes that celebrities make are everyday errors that can be avoided and that we can learn from.
Which celebrities made the worst mistakes in estate planning?
Perhaps Jimi Hendrix tops the list by neglecting to create a will in the first place. His close brother was left empty handed, while Hendrix's father got it all. In her “letter of wishes,” Princess Di didn't specifically mention her godchildren, which left them short handed in the end. Heath Ledger also can't go unmentioned, as he overlooked changing his will after the birth of his daughter, Matilda Rose. When he died, Matilda Rose was left with nothing and Ledger's father with new found riches.
How to avoid estate disputes.
Estate disputes can arise when small, often unnoticed, details are left out of a will. Ironing out the smallest details make all the difference in avoiding future family and estate disputes. Ray Charles tried to avoid estate disputes by having a family meeting (with nine moms and twelve children) soon before his death. But he forgot to address the issue of publicity rights in his will, which became a huge problem (and family fighting grounds) after his passing. In Princess Di's case, her “letter of wishes” could have been much more thorough, ensuring that her godchildren received their fair share. Princess Di relied too heavily on her executors, which placed undue pressure on their judgment and interpretation after her death.
Do I need to update my estate plan?
It is important to keep your estate plan up to date. This includes when you marry, divorce, move, or have a child. The estate documents must be up to date, organized, and straightforward. Review your living trust often, changing the titles of your assets to keep the trust going. Heath Ledger, who died when he was only 28, could have avoided family drama by updating his will after the birth of his daughter. Continuous conversation is essential in keeping everything up to date. The holidays are a good time to discuss and update estate planning documents with your family.
How to choose your executor.
Assigning the role of executor is an important task and should not be underestimated. It may be easy to too casually give this role to friends or family members, but be sure they are up to the duties it involves. The executor will manage the estate and carry out all legalities including: probate, paying taxes, organizing assets, and possibly hiring an attorney. This requires a person who is organized, responsible, and can meet deadlines. If a fortune fight erupts, the executor is in charge. Doris Duke, a billionaire from a tobacco family, chose her butler as her executor. In the end, the butler's outrageous spending habits eventually lead to his removal by the courts.
Full article at: www.forbes.com/2009/11/24/princess-di-heath-ledger-brando-personal-finance-investment-guide-2-09-celebrity-estate-mistakes.html There is a great photo montage of celebrities and their mistakes.