Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Some Famous People Still Don't Plan for Their Estates

ImagesWith as many cautionary tales that circulate about the trouble that can come from dying without a will, it is a wonder that the majority of Americans still don't have an estate plan.  Many smart and successful famous people fall into this category as well.  Below is a list of several famous people and what happened to their estates: 

Four of our country's leaders died without an estate plan--Presidents Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and Garfield. Lincoln's estate took two years to settle, even though he was even a practicing attorney before he took office. 

Sonny Bono: He left his third wife to manage claims from Cher and an alleged love child.  He did not set up a will or a trust before his untimely death in a skiing accident.  

Howard Hughes: This famous businessman, aviator, and philanthropist died intestate after a handwritten will found on a church official's desk was deemed forged.  His $2.5 billion estate was split among 22 cousins after much litigation. 

James Brown: James Brown tried to leave his $100 million to a special trust to benefit poor and need y children.  He did not discuss his wishes with his family, however, and failed to update his will while he was married to his fourth wife.  These mistakes left his money in limbo and ultimately only benefited legal teams. 

Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley actually had his estate plan in order when he died.  He not only had a will but also included a testamentary trust to provide for his family long after he passed away.  Even though many unscrupulous business partners tried to exploit his fame and fortune in attacks on the estate, his finances were handled appropriately because of tools he put in place. 

See Jim Moniz, Lessons of the Rich and Famous, WealthManagement.com, Nov. 21, 2012. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

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