Sunday, December 7, 2014
2014 was another year full of headlines describing the scandal and controversy surrounding the estates of celebrities. Here is a review of 10 celebrity estates that started discussions and taught important estate planning lessons this past year:
- Patrick Swayze: Five years after Swayze's death, the recent allegations of forgery of his will reminds us of the importance of timely filing any challenges to wills before the window closes for probate claims.
- L’Wren Scott: The scandal and resulting lawsuits over the cancelation of Rolling Stones tour performances by Scott's grief-stricken boyfriend Mick Jagger reminds us that litigation after the loss of a loved one can often become very public, and emotionally and financially draining, and effective estate planning can help prevent such an outcome.
- Tom Clancy: The feud over Clancy's estate is an example of how ambiguities in estate planning documents can result in bitter family battles.
- Lou Reed: The sole reliance on a will rather than using a trust by Reed resulted in private financial details becoming very public.
- Paul Walker: The will used to probate Walker's estate predated his death by 12 years and showed the importance of updating estate planning documents after major life events.
- Mickey Rooney: In addition to sparking serious discussions about the problem of elder abuse, the resulting family battle over burial plans for Rooney after he died will very little financially, showed that even an estate does not hold significant financial wealth needs effective estate planning to ensure the decedent's wishes are followed.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman: The huge tax consequences that resulted from Hoffman's choice to not create a trust for his children out of fear of spoiling them, sparked discussions of how to create trusts without creating lazy or irresponsible children.
- Robin Williams: A positive example was set by Williams through his choice to rely on trusts for his estate planning to keep his financial affairs private, and to create his estate planning documents early before any illness arose that could cause disputes over validity later.
- Joan Rivers: Another positive example was set by Rivers' effective use of end-of-life documents as part of her estate plan, which allowed her daughter to know and honor her wishes by terminating life support without the need for court involvement.
- Casey Kasem: The bitter family battle that ensued prior to Kasem's death and continues today exemplifies the heightened emotions involved when a family member is nearing and reaches the last stage of life.
See Danielle Mayoras & Andy Mayoras, The 10 Biggest Celebrity Estate Stories of 2014 and What You Can Learn, Forbes, Dec. 4, 2014.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.