Broker Check

Learning from the Mistakes of Other People – Celebrity Edition

| May 23, 2017

The older you get, the more you realize that celebrities are just like us, only rich and famous.  They make mistakes like anyone else, and those mistakes are often magnified by the money involved and the attention afforded their particular situation. 

The good news is that we can learn valuable lessons from their mistakes.  Lesson One?  It’s critical to have an up-to-date Last Will and Testament.  Let’s take a look at some celebrity “cases” that illuminate the importance of having a simple written will.

Without a will, the disposition of your assets is left to state law.  Abraham Lincoln and Pablo Picasso made this mistake, but for a more recent example, let’s look at the case of musician Prince, who died without a will in 2016 with an estate estimated to be worth around $300 million.  His six siblings initially appeared to be his only heirs, until a 39-year-old convicted felon claimed to be the “love child” of Prince from back when he was a teenager.  If DNA tests had proved this to be true (they didn’t), this person would have inherited 100% of Prince’s estate in accordance with state law, disinheriting his siblings.

Sensationalistic situations like illegitimate children aside, problems can still arise from not having a will.  For example, in many states each child and the surviving spouse will inherit equal percentages of an estate, with the child(ren) receiving unrestricted access to their share upon reaching age 18.  I’m sure you can envision the potential for money mismanagement when an 18 year old receives a lump sum with no guardrails.  Trusts that are created as a part of a will can help to protect some of the assets from spendthrift children by restricting access to the funds by use (like education) and/or age.

Finally, many people provide some level of financial support to members of their extended family.  The last caution against not having a will is that upon a person’s death, the surviving spouse and/or children have first-priority rights to the assets, which can lead to tension and potential loss of the previously provided support.  This was unfortunately the case for former NFL player Steve McNair’s mother.  While McNair was living, he purchased a million dollar home for his mother but he retained title of the residence.  McNair, however, failed to create a will passing this house to his mother should he die.  When he passed away, his wife demanded $3,000 per month in rent from her mother-in-law, which she could not afford.  This resulted in McNair’s mother moving out of what we imagine was a home her son intended her to live in as long as she wanted.

Your situation may not involve million dollar homes or multi-million dollar estates, but the headaches and heartaches that can arise from you not having a will are potentially just as impactful.  A will can be a great practical way to show your family you love them.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific legal advice or recommendations for any individual. Please consult the appropriate advisor regardingyour specific situation.