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Celebrity estate planning mistakes

10 Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes

10 Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes

10 Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes. Just like regular folks, celebrities flub their estate planning, costing their intended heirs money and/or grief. What’s different? Bigger dollar amounts and notoriety, mostly. A new book, Trial & Heirs, by probate litigator Andrew W. Mayoras and his estate lawyer wife, Danielle B. Mayoras, uses celebrity cliffhanger cases to dish out real-life advice.The mistakes celebrities have made run the gamut, from never writing a will (music legend Jimi Hendrix) to relying on a “letter of wishes” to give away belongings (Princess Di). So read on, and learn from their mistakes.

Celebrity: Jimi Hendrix

Mistake: Never writing a will.

Story: Music legend Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 without a will. Under state law, his dad, Al, got everything, leaving his close brother Leon with nothing. Al built Hendrix’s musical legacy into an $80 million venture, but in his own will cut out Leon and his family, in favor of his adopted daughter through a later marriage.

Lesson: Even young rock stars aren’t immortal. Sign a will or living trust document.

Celebrity: Warren Burger

Mistake: Relying on do-it-yourself documents.

Story: Chief Justice Warren Burger died in 1995 with a $1.8 million estate and a will of 176 words he typed up himself. There’s something to be said for brevity, but in this case, his family paid $450,000 in estate taxes, something that could have been easily avoided. And his executors had to pay to go to court to get approval to complete administrative acts, such as selling real estate, that typically a well-drafted will would have allowed without court approval.

Lesson: Even if you know a bit about the law, get an estate pro to write your will.

Celebrity: Princess Di

Mistake: Relying on a “letter of wishes” to give away belongings.

Story: At her death in 1997, Princess Diana left a detailed will, naming her sister and mother as executors. She also wrote a separate “letter of wishes” asking her executors, at their discretion, to divide her belongings among her sons and her 17 godchildren. But instead of getting stuff worth an estimated 100,000 pounds, each godchild got only a trinket.

Lesson: Don’t rely on executors’ sense of noblesse oblige; put bequests in your will or trust or in a signed, dated list.

Celebrity: Heath Ledger

Mistake: Not updating documents.

Story: When actor Heath Ledger died at age 28 in 2008, he had a will, but it was written three years before he died, prior to his relationship with Michelle Williams and the birth of their daughter, Matilda Rose. The will left everything to his parents and sister. When Ledger’s uncles raised fears that his father wouldn’t properly care for Matilda Rose, Ledger’s father said he would.

Lesson: When life changes, update your will, retirement accounts and insurance policies.

Celebrity: Doris Duke

Mistake: Bad choice of executor.

Story: Tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993 with a fortune estimated at $1.3 billion, named her butler as executor and as trustee for a huge charitable foundation. After the butler’s lifestyle and spending habits were called into question, he was removed from his duties by a probate judge, then reinstated by New York’s highest court. A settlement agreement created a board of trustees to manage the foundation.

Lesson: Don’t let the butler do it. Pick someone competent and trustworthy as your executor.

Celebrity: Marlon Brando

Mistake: Making oral promises.

Story: Angela Borlaza, actor Brando’s “major domo,” claimed Brando gave her the house she lived in, saying he had kept it in his name for tax reasons. She settled with the executors of his estate for $125,000. She also claimed Brando promised her continued employment with a company he owned, and settled that claim out of court.

Lesson: Oral promises won’t do; if you’re serious, execute the right written documents.

Celebrity: Florence “FloJo” Griffith Joyner

Mistake: Not telling your executor where to find your original documents.

Story: When Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner died at 38, in 1998, her husband couldn’t find her original will, and failed to file it with the probate court within 30 days of her death, as required by California law. Joyner’s husband and mother took disputes, including whether Joyner promised her mother could live in their house the rest of her life, to court. Joyner never filed the original will, and the judge eventually appointed a third party to administer the estate.

Lesson: Tell at least two people you trust where to find your original will. To be safe, keep two copies, and leave the original in your bank safety deposit box, or in your lawyer’s fireproof safe.

Celebrity: Leona Helmsley

Mistake: Taking care of the dog, but not the grandkids, without getting her sanity certified.

Story: When she died in 2007, hotel tycoon Leona Helmsley’s will left most of her $5 billion estate to charity, created a $12 million trust for her Maltese dog, Trouble, and completely cut out two of her four grandchildren. The two stiffed grandkids sued her estate, claiming she wasn’t mentally fit to create her will and trust. The case settled, with Trouble getting $2 million, and the two grandkids sharing $6 million plus legal fees.

Lesson: If you’re older and cutting out relatives, have your lawyer conduct and sign a “mini mental evaluation” attesting to your competence.

Celebrity: Brooke Astor

Mistake: Naming wrong person as agent under power of attorney.

Story: In October 2009, socialite Brooke Astor’s son Anthony Marshall was convicted of fraud and grand larceny relating to his handling of his late mother’s estate. The 14 counts of which a New York jury found Marshall guilty included misusing his power of attorney over her financial affairs by giving himself a retroactive $1 million raise for managing her finances. Marshall denied wrongdoing and is appealing his conviction.

Lesson: Pick your agent with care, and require a backup agent to sign off, too, on major decisions.

Celebrity: Ted Williams

Mistake: Conflicting directions on burial wishes.

Story: In his will, baseball legend Ted Williams said he wished to be cremated. But his two children from a second marriage produced a grease-stained note saying he wished to be put in biostasis after his death, and they froze his body after his death in 2002. His eldest daughter fought to have his body unfrozen and cremated, but gave up the fight when she ran out of money.

Lesson: If you change your mind about your burial wishes, change your will by adding a codicil, or writing a new one.

Read more related articles here:

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes

6 Estate-Planning Mistakes Celebrities Made

Lessons To Be Learned From Failed Celebrity Estates

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Which Stars Made the Biggest Estate Planning Blunders?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

johnny Depp

Don’t Be Like Johnny Depp, Get a Prenup

Don’t Be Like Johnny Depp, Get a Prenup

Not having a prenuptial agreement can be a costly mistake — not just for Johnny Depp, but for you as well.

Depp, 52, and his wife of just 15 months, Amber Heard, 30, are heading for splitsville. Heard filed a divorce petition earlier this week, citing irreconcilable differences, and requested spousal support. Depp’s response, according to The Associated Press, asked the judge to deny Heard’s support request — and asked that Heard pay her own attorney’s fees.

The couple reportedly did not have a prenuptial agreement, which could leave Captain Jack Sparrow’s treasure rife for plundering.
“Depp would be a poster boy for a prenup,” said Arlene Dubin, chair of the matrimonial and family law practice at Moses & Singer in New York. “If you were checking off the boxes [of who should consider one], he pretty much has them all.”

Generally speaking, she said, prenups are an important consideration for:

  • older couples;
  • those who come into the marriage with assets (as he did with a reported $400 million);
  • people who have children from prior relationships (as he does);
  • people who expect future celebrity and significant income (as he could, despite dismal reviews of “Alice Through the Looking Glass”).

Without one, the process of getting unhitched can lead to protracted and expensive legal battles, or result in a less-fair division of assets.

A multimillion-dollar net worth isn’t required to benefit. Hammering out a prenuptial agreement — or for unmarried couples, a cohabitation agreement — can make sense for many regular folks, too, said Joslin Davis, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “It requires people to think ahead,” she said.
Take the case of older couples and those who are remarrying. A prenup can protect your assets not just in divorce, but in death, said Davis, who is also a principal of Allman Spry Davis Leggett & Crumpler, P.A., in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Many jurisdictions prevent spouses from being disinherited, she said, so a court could easily void provisions in a will that leaves everything to your kids from a prior marriage. But a prenup could be worded to require your new spouse to waive their right to dissent or take an elective share in your estate.

For young couples, a prenup offers the chance to hash out divorce handling of issues like joint efforts to pay off one partner’s student-loan debt, or how a partner might be compensated for leaving the workforce to care for their children.

“This way, the two people can write their own deal at the beginning of the relationship, at a time when they are in love and looking out for each other,” said Dubin, who is also the author of “Prenups for Lovers: A Romantic Guide to Prenuptial Agreements.”

Already married? Postnups are generally harder to come by. “Sometimes, one party may be advised that they are better off without one,” said Davis. “The law already favors them.”

Read more related articles at:

A Tale of Two Celebrity Marriages and One Prenuptial Agreement

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Prenup: Lessons for Johnny Depp

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Jessica Fussell Brandt filed an eviction petition against her daughter, Julie Hartline, her son-in-law Darryl Hartline and two grandchildren, Alexis and Zachary Hartline. She is pitted against them in a legal fight over an estate valued at more than $300 million, reports nola.com in the article “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound.”

Before auto magnate Ray Brandt died at age 72 from pancreatic cancer, the entire family shared a compound that includes two mansions located next to the Metairie Country Club. Brandt has been trying to sell the property which belongs to the estate, as its executrix. The family members living there don’t want to move, even taking down “For Sale” signs from the lawn.

Her attempt to evict them comes after she won a case in her attempt to maintain control of her late husband’s estate, which includes a large number of auto dealerships and collision centers across Louisiana and Mississippi.

On January 25, a Jefferson Parish judge invalidated the last will and testament that Ray Brandt signed just weeks before his death and another last will drafted in 2015. The district judge ruled that both last wills contained a flaw in how they were notarized: neither notarization specified that Ray Brandt, the witnesses, and the notary were together when it was signed.

The decision is being appealed, but it appears to leave the fate of Brandt’s empire to a last will he made in 2010. Unlike the others, this last will places Jessica Brandt in full control of his estate and trust, including the auto dealerships, until her death.

Ultimately, Ray Brandt directed that her grandchildren, who he legally adopted as adults before he died, would split the estate’s assets.

Despite issuing a statement saying that Jessica was “pleased with the prospect beginning the healing process,” after the Jefferson Parish decision, the eviction filing revealed that Jessica’s attorneys sent an email urging family members to leave the property by January 31, 2021.

Jessica made a statement that her wish to evict family members was a result of the multiple citations issued by Jefferson Parish for continuing violations at the compound. The latest one was for a trailer and mud buggy parked in a driveway on a vacant lot. She also said that the family members own two other homes, one in Metairie and one in Fort Beauregard.

The compound where the family settled seven years ago is estimated to be worth more than $8 million.

The heart of the dispute pits Jessica Brandt against Archbishop Rummel High School principal Marc Milano, who Ray Brandt named as a trustee to oversee the auto group and the rest of the estate until Jessica Brandt dies. Milano has accused Jessica of taking money from the estate and trying to claim an ownership interest in the dealership. She sued him for defamation.

Now the grandchildren have filed their own legal action, challenging a petition to put Ray Brandt’s last will into effect. Their argument is the trust that Ray Brandt set up in 2015 makes it clear that he meant for Milano to oversee the assets.

This estate battle will no doubt keep the Jefferson Parish courts and newspapers busy for some time. It’s a lesson to keep your family’s business private, by ensuring that your estate plan is properly prepared and up to date.

Reference: nola.com (Feb. 3, 2021) “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound”

Read more related articles at:

Fate of Ray Brandt’s auto empire in doubt amid roiling family squabble over estate

‘Stop all of this!’ Ray Brandt’s widow bemoans the family battle over his massive estate

In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Celebrity Estates: Battle Over Inheritances

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

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