Biggest Estate Planning Celebrity Lessons from 2014, Pt. 2

The first part of this article listed some of this year’s most notable celebrity deaths and the estate planning issues that arose as a result. This next part of the article is a continuation of lessons that can be learned by the estate planning problems of celebrities who passed away this year.

Paul Walker

Mr. Walker tragically died at the young age of forty this year in a car accident. He did take the steps to plan for his estate at a young age, but at the time of his death he had not updated his documents in over twelve years. His estate had a will, trust, and over $25 million in assets when he died.

The lesson learned from his estate is that it is commendable to do your estate planning early, but the entire process should be updated every couple of years. This is especially important to do after major life events like a marriage, divorce, birth, or death in the family.

Mickey Rooney

Before Mr. Rooney’s death, his plight shined a light on the growing problem of elder financial abuse. At the time of his death, Mr. Rooney was almost penniless because of his family’s exploitation. Even after the money was gone, his family still battled in court over where he should be buried.

Mr. Rooney’s estate not only highlights the tragedy of elder abuse, but it also shows that wealthy families are not the only type of people to fight over an estate. Drawn out court battles are costly and time-consuming. Often, they lead to the heirs losing their inheritance to court fees.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

This Oscar winner disregarded his estate planning attorney’s advice to set up a trust for his children. Instead, he left his entire estate to his longtime girlfriend and mother of his children and trusted that she will use the money to take care of the kids. Unfortunately, this also trapped her with a massive tax bill that could have been avoided altogether with the proper estate planning tools.

The lesson learned from his estate is to trust your estate planning attorney and consider the advice given regarding your estate. Creative attorneys can properly plan an estate to meet the needs and wishes of the testator if you let them.

Robin Williams

After Robin Williams’ tragic suicide, it was discovered that he had created multiple trusts to take care of his estate. It was also revealed that he did the proper estate planning before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia. Because he planned the right way, Mr. Williams’ estate is shielded from the public’s eyes.

Robin Williams’ estate is a great example of how important and beneficial it is to plan your estate before becoming sick or disabled. When estate planning documents are created and signed after the testator has become ill, especially when any kind of dementia is involved, family members can fight over the validity of the estate plan.

Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers’ early death was complicated by her being placed on life support after a medical accident. However, Ms. Rivers’ had done some smart estate planning, and she had the proper healthcare documents in place to allow her daughter to terminate life support as per her final wishes.

The lesson from her estate is that not all estate planning documents revolve around who gets what. It is also important to have other documents in place such as a durable power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and a living will.

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