When you’re looking for insight into the “do’s and dont’s” of estate planning media sources often provide a window into the lives of celebrities that can be utilized as “lessons learned” from time to time. There have been some famous people who have done well by their families and others who have made estate planning mistakes that have yielded rather disastrous results.
To find an example of a celebrity who did a good job of estate planning look no further than Amy Winehouse. Winehouse apparently revised her estate plan shortly after becoming divorced from her husband, and it wound up being a very prescient move.
What you can learn from this is the importance of updating your estate plan after changes in your life occur, such as a change in your marital status. Another lesson here is the fact that estate planning is relevant to people of all ages because you never know what the future holds even if you are a young adult.
The case of someone like the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown is a good example of what not to do when you’re planning your estate. Brown provided nothing for his wife or children in his last will, leaving everything to a special trust that was supposed to be utilized for the well-being of children in need.
As you might expect his widow and children took the matter to court, and it has still not been resolved even though James Brown passed away in 2006. If you want to do something unconventional that is clearly going to raise the ire of interested parties you need to take special care when you are planning your estate.
To highlight the importance of intelligent incapacity planning, consider billionaire octogenarian Liliane Bettencourt. Bettencourt was recently deemed unfit to handle her own affairs by a French court after funneling over $1 billion to French photographer Francois-Marie Banier and changing her will to make him the sole heir to her fortune.
The suggestion here is to take heed when you hear about the estate planning histories of public figures and make sure you follow the good examples and avoid the mistakes that others have made.
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday