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What to learn from celebrity estate planning mistakes

Celebrities often help guide popular culture, but they can be poor guides when it comes to financial matters. To ensure a valid will, minimize probate and provide for other special desires, Michigan residents can take a lesson from some well-known celebrities and their estate planning blunders that came to light when they passed away.

The desire for privacy is sometimes an impetus for using trusts. When Robin Williams created trusts for his children, privacy was likely one of his concerns. If so, it was undermined by the subsequent death of his appointed trustee and lack of a plan for succession. Building a lasting estate plan requires some planning for unknown circumstances, such as the death or incapacity of key individuals.

Another unknown circumstance, changing family situations, is also worth careful consideration. Another case highlights this as well as the need to revisit the estate plan on a routine basis. Michael Crichton's selected distribution of assets was challenged in court by his wife who was pregnant at the time of his death. His estate documents disinherited future heirs beyond his adult daughter. A review of the documents prompted by this significant life change may have eliminated the court battle between surviving family members.

A failure to regularly review documents and plan for continuity of estate administration can easily undermine the benefactor's primary goals in establishing an estate plan. Most people would cringe at the idea of their death prompting conflicts between their children and a surviving spouse or other family members. The risk of conflicts between heirs over the distribution of assets is a major reason for the use of will planning and trusts. The advice and counsel of an estate planning attorney can help to further reduce this risk.

Source: Forbes, "Lessons Celebrities Can Teach Retirees About Estate Planning", Thomas and Robert Fross, September 16, 2014

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