Estate Planning Failures of the Rich and Famous

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Kyle Krasa, an estate planning attorney in Pacific Grove, updates his blog every month with useful estate planning advice.  He occasionally gives examples of celebrities who mismanaged their estates.  Kyle says “No matter how much talent, intelligence, money, or fame a person might have, failure to take the time and effort to plan your estate properly will lead to unintended consequence.”. Here are some of his examples:

Marilyn Monroe:

Actress Marilyn Monroe took the time to draft a will, but she did not put enough effort into her planning to make her wishes legally binding. She left the bulk of her estate to her acting coach with the “hope” that he would donate it to charity. Her acting coach never did donate her estate to charity and later married a woman whom Marilyn never met. Upon his death in the early 1980s, he left Marilyn’s estate to his wife who some estimate earned more than $30 million over the years from Marilyn’s image. If Marilyn had simply taken the time to draft a comprehensive trust, this colossal mistake would have been avoided. (Source: Insurance News Net.)

Ted Williams

Baseball great Ted Williams died with an estate plan that stated he wished to be cremated. However, two of his children from a second marriage produced a handwritten document that stated he wished that his body be cryogenically frozen. It was unclear whether the handwritten document was really written by Ted or whether he had sufficient capacity to make such a change to his wishes with regard to the disposition of his remains. Sometimes people think that it is “easy” to amend their estate plans on their own but this case demonstrates the importance of formally making changes with the aid and guidance of a qualified attorney. (Source: Forbes.)

Elvis Presley

Due to a lack of proper planning, singer Elvis Presley’s estate was reduced by a whopping 73% due to probate fees, settlement costs, and avoidable taxes. His case is often cited as an example of why avoiding probate and addressing estate tax planning by utilizing a revocable living trust can be crucial to protecting one’s hard-earned assets from being lost unnecessarily. (Source: Asset Protection Wealth Management.)

Chief Justice Warren Burger

Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger took the law into his own hands by typing up his own will. However, the Justice made several key mistakes including subjecting his estate to probate and neglecting to give his executor the power to sell real estate without court approval. As a result, his family paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and fees that could have been avoided by a properly drafted estate plan. This demonstrates that even brilliant legal minds can make major estate planning mistakes if they are not proficient in the highly specialized practice area of estate planning

Marlon Brando

After Marlon Brando died, his housekeeper claimed that he had promised to give her a house that he bought in the San Fernando Valley.  However, it was an oral promise which is not sufficient estate planning.  If this were truly his intent, he should have made it legally effective by formally amending his written estate plan. . (Source: Insurance News Net.)

Kenneth B. Petersen CFP®, EA, MBA, AIFA® is an investment manager and Principal of Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey.   He welcomes questions that you may have concerning investing, taxes, retirement, or estate planning.  Send your questions to: Ken Petersen, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA  93940 or email them to ken@montereypw.com.