When the Rich & Famous Fail to Plan

Too often we read stories in the news about famous people who didn’t have an estate plan in place when they died. Here are a few interesting tales from those who succeeded during life but failed to plan for death:

1. Seattle rock legend Jimi Hendrix died without a Will; after a long legal battle related to whether certain children were biological children of Jimi’s or not, Jimi’s father inherited Jimi’s music and his $80 million estate. Jimi’s father then gave it to his adopted daughter when he died, effectively excluding Jimi’s biological relatives from the benefit of his estate.

2. The former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Warren Burger, wrote his own will and his failure to include basic tax-savings provisions cost his family hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

3. George Washington left his estate to his nieces and nephews (he had no children). His estate plan was so confusing that his estate (worth approximately $30 million in today’s dollars) was not closed until 50 years after his death and only because all of the nieces and nephews had died.

4. Abraham Lincoln didn’t have a Will when he died and left his wife in a position of battling his family members over his asset.

5. Robin Williams’ children and their stepmother are still arguing about the contents of his estate plan, which did not include a “no contest” provision, meaning they wouldn’t be penalized for litigating the matter. Such a provision could have mitigated or avoided litigation completely.

6. Prince died without a Will and left a mess for his family members to deal with, likely resulting in unintended beneficiaries receiving his massive estate and rights to his music.

7. Author Stieg Larsson died suddenly in 2004 at age 50 and hadn’t put a plan in place to distribute his estate after publication of the Lisbeth Salander trilogy of books. Because he did not have a Will, his estate was distributed to his dad and brother instead of his long-time girlfriend of 32 years. The fight over his estate (and rights to his books and unpublished works) continues today.

Published 10/07/2017.