3 Celebrity Estate Planning Disasters
With extreme wealth accumulated, one would assume that celebrities would take the necessary steps to protect their estates. But think again: Some of the world’s richest and most famous celebrities enter the pearly gates with no estate plan in place. Others have made estate planning mistakes that tied their fortunes and heirs up for years in court. An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through the pitfalls of improper planning. Let’s take a look at three high-profile celebrity estate planning disasters and discover what lessons we can learn from them.
Tom Carvel, The Soft-Serve Ice Cream Man
As the man who invented soft-serve ice cream and established the first franchise business in America, Tom Carvel had a net worth of approximately $200 million when he died in 1990.
- Tom Carvel used an estate planning attorney to prepare a will and accompanying trust that provided for his widow, family members and donations for several charities. However he also named seven executors, all of whom had a financial stake in the game.
- Unfortunately, the seven executors began a round of infighting that lasted for more than 7 years and cost millions. In the end, Carvel’s widow passed away before the disputes could be settled and before she inherited. This is a sad example of poor estate planning that cost the family in the long run.
Lesson learned: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Your trustee and executor may have to make tough decisions. Consider naming executors and trustees who have no financial interest in your estate to reduce the risk of favoritism. Also, consider having only a single trustee and executor rather than a committee to simplify the process.
Jimi Hendrix, Legendary Guitarist
Passing away tragically at age 27, rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix did not use an estate planning attorney, and he left no will and no estate plan.
- What Jimi Hendrix did leave behind was a long line of relatives, music industry bigwigs, and business associates who had an interest in what would become of his estate – including intellectual property that would continue to earn substantial amounts of cash flow for generations.
- A lawyer managed the estate for the first two decades after Jimi’s death, after which Jimi’s father Al Hendrix successfully sued for control of the estate.
- But Jimi Hendrix’s father Al attempted to leave the entire estate to his adopted daughter upon his passing, Jimi’s brother, Leon Hendrix, sued, launching a messy probate battle that left no clear winners. Without proper estate planning, expensive and lengthy probate battles are likely.
Lesson learned: When you don’t leave a clear and comprehensive estate plan, the conflict can last for generations. Even if you’re not a celebrity, we can put your wishes in writing so they are carried out after your death rather than opening a door to costly conflict.
Prince, American Musical Genius
The court battle waging over Prince’s estate is a classic example of a probate disaster.
- When the 80’s pop icon died in early 2016, he left no estate plan (reportedly due to some previous legal battles that left him with a distrust of legal professionals in general).
- The lines are already being drawn for what will likely be a costly and lengthy court battle among Prince’s heirs.
- Sadly, there’s even a battle looming about determining, for certain, who his heirs actually are.
Lesson learned: Accurate legal documentation prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney protects your legacy. Don’t let a general distrust or a bad experience propagate through the generations and leave your heirs to fight and potentially lose their inheritance.
These celebrity probate disasters serve as stark reminders that no one’s wealth is exempt from the legal trouble that can occur without proper estate planning. As always, we are here to help you protect your family and legacy.
Dan Chudleigh, shareholder with Chudleigh Law P.C., is an Estate Planning Attorney in Orange County, California. Dan Chudleigh is an active member of Wealth Counsel, a prestigious estate planning association. Call Chudleigh Law P.C. today to discuss protecting your assets and your family.
Chudleigh Law P.C.
410 Broadway St # 170, Laguna Beach, CA 92651