The older I get the more I find celebrities interesting. The things we see in the tabloids present them as caricatures of real people, and everything they face and go through seems to be normal life on a larger flashier scale.
For example, a negligent parent may lead to a drinking habit for average Joe, but for Elton John it fueled a lavish, loud rock career and substance abuse problem that nearly killed him. Slightly bigger scale.
The same seems to go for their planning needs. 2017 saw the fall of more than a few music legends who left legacies up for grabs to friends, families, and associates. Unfortunately, mortality wasn’t front of mind for many of these stars, and they either failed mostly or completely in setting up a valid estate plan to pass along what they had built.
Prince died with no will whatsoever to guide his $200 Million estate.
Aretha Franklin left $80 Million upon her death with a few notes and versions of wills, but nothing concrete. Her assets will also spend some considerable time in probate while the court works out where they should go.
Tom Petty, surprisingly, was the best of these three and actually took the time to make up a will. Unfortunately, like some of his song lyrics, the wording was vague and left room for a legal battle between his widow and daughters. He left his estate to his widow and two daughters “in equal parts”. Does that mean half to widow and half to daughters? Or 1/3 each? Who knows; the better lawyer will tell.
The moral of the story is, although our estates may not contain millions of dollars and music rights, we have the same basic problems these entertainers had. Taking the time to really hammer out your estate wishes with a good planner and attorney may be the best thing you can leave your beneficiaries. These things don’t just get “figured out” when someone passes, they cause a lot of work and confusion and can take families years to settle.
Like almost everything in life, this isn’t something you need to stress about doing all at once. What you should do is get a team together and lay out whatever you feel certain about. As that changes take the time to update it.
And don’t be afraid of not having everything perfect on the first go around or upsetting someone. If you don’t outline what is going to happen to your assets, someone else will and you probably wouldn’t have liked how that goes anyway.
Step one of this process doesn’t have to involve anyone but you. Simply listing your assets and where they are is an excellent first step on the road to having a great estate plan.
If this is something that has been on your mind, we’d be happy to start the discussion with you and give you a few resources to get the ball rolling.