Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar Winners Teach Us 5 Estate Planning Tips

OscarsOscar winners Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Taylor, Heath Ledger, Frank Sinatra, and Marlon Brando have taught us some important estate planning lessons.

  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate highlights the fact that estate planning is not "one-size fits all". Hoffman used creativity in his will to fulfill his goals. Hoffman included a provision in his will that indicated his preference that his son be raised in Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco. 
  2. Elizabeth Taylor's estate was an example of a well thought out comprehensive estate plan. There has been no probate filing, and no court battles.
  3. Heath Ledger should have updated his will. It is important for everyone to update their wills and trusts after significant events like marriage, divorce, new business ventures, and the birth of a child.
  4. Frank Sinatra's estate taught people one strategy to prevent future potential conflict. Sinatra’s will included an "in terrorem clause" which was effective in preventing will challenges.
  5. Marlon Brando made many verbal promises during his lifetime, but did not reflect those promises in his will. Keep in that clearer estate planning documents could have avoided these legal battles.


See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oscar Winners Teach Five Lessons on Estate Planning, Forbes, Mar. 2, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.))  for bringing this article to my attention.


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Hey Gerry: You make some really great points here. Our readers and clients need to be educated on the failure to update wills and having a qualified estates attorney draft their will. For additional insight and other issues explored in the Phillip Seymour Hoffman tragedy readers may want to look at Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Lessons For Us and Especially Women On The Estate Plan Left Behind at http://frommtaxes.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/phillip-seymour-hoffman-lessons-for-us-women-estate-pain-left-behind/.
Hope this additional spin is of value to your readers.

Posted by: Steven J Fromm | Mar 9, 2014 7:35:55 AM

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