Simple but Significant Estate Planning Mistakes of the Rich and Famous

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You might be inclined to think that celebrities are more likely to take better care of their estates than the rest of us. After all, they’re surrounded by advisors and assistants. They have a cadre of experts at their beck and call, which usually include more than one attorney on speed dial. But unfortunately, having a net worth in the multimillions doesn’t shield you from making basic estate planning mistakes. Such was the case for a number of celebrities who died without having their last wishes properly documented.


Barry White Didn’t Remove Beneficiaries

When Barry White died, he was still technically married to his wife of nearly 30 years, Glodean White, although they had been separated for a decade. However, the court only recognizes couples as divorced when the paperwork is complete, which it wasn’t. And White didn’t bother to remove Glodean as the sole executor of his estate. Of course, when he died, White was in another relationship and left her behind, along with nine children. Because of these estate planning mistakes, none of them received anything from the will.


Heath Ledger Didn’t Add a Beneficiary

Heath Ledger’s untimely death at the age of 28 left a hole in the entertainment world, but he unfortunately left a hole in his estate plan as well. He and partner Michelle Williams shared a daughter, Matilda. But Ledger hadn’t updated his will to include Williams and Matilda. One of the more common estate planning mistakes of not accounting for children nearly kept Matilda from inheriting anything; Ledger left it all to his parents and sisters. Fortunately for his daughter, Ledger’s family gifted his estate to his little girl.


Tom Petty’s Estate Plan Was Unclear

Although musician Tom Petty had a complete, up-to-date estate plan in place when he died in 2017, the language was open to interpretation. He had a living trust that designated his widow, Dana York Petty, as the sole trustee. But the trust also stated that Dana and his two daughters from his previous marriage should be equally involved in the management of the estate. Understandably, that led to some tensions. The three parties were able to come to an agreement, but only after considerable time spent in court.


Michael Jackson Didn’t Fund His Trust

The pop megastar Michael Jackson had the best intentions when he created a revocable living trust to leave his estate to charity, his children, and his mother. Unfortunately, though, he failed to fund it, ensuring a lengthy probate process that had to rely on the will yet continued to be disputed by several family members.


Florence Griffith Joyner Hid Her Will

While it was believed that Olympic speedster Joyner had indeed created a will, no one could find it. When she died of an epileptic seizure at age 38, her husband couldn’t find her will and didn’t file it with the court within 30 days of her death, as required by California law. The biggest dispute was whether or not Joyner wanted her mother to remain living in her home for free, which FloJo’s husband didn’t feel was the case.


Don’t Make These Estate Planning Mistakes

Just like these celebrities, you’ve worked hard to create your legacy, so you don’t want to make the same estate planning mistakes they have. Now is the time to create your plan or update the one you have. And be sure to update it regularly as your life situation changes. For more than 30 years, Joel A. Harris has been protecting the estates of families throughout California. If you want some help navigating the ins and outs of protecting your estate or establishing a trust to protect your future, feel free to visit us online, in person, or call us by phone at (925) 757-4605.



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