Learning from your mistakes is an essential part of growing as a person. However, unfortunately, estate planning mistakes do not always allow for a do-over — especially if your family members only discover them after your passing.

Instead, examining other peoples’ mistakes can help you avoid making similar ones during your estate planning process. We’ve reviewed a few celebrities’ estate planning mistakes to identify what we can learn from them to help our clients.

Read on to learn four lessons we can learn from celebrity estate planning mistakes. Then contact our Carolina Family Estate Planning team, your “estate planning attorney near me,” to schedule a vision meeting.

Lesson 1: Create A Will As Soon As Possible

Aretha Franklin passed away in 2018 at the age of 76. Unfortunately, the singer had never created a will before her death. Her estate was allegedly worth over $18 million at her passing, but her family members had no legal documentation illustrating her wishes for this fortune.

Aretha Franklin is among countless other celebrities who never created a will. Their stories illustrate the essential nature of creating an estate plan as soon as possible.

You never know when you will pass away, suffer an illness, or enter long-term care that leaves you unable to state your wishes for your estate after your death. Preparing now can ensure that your attorney and family members know your plans.

Lesson 2: Make Sure Your Wishes Are In Legally Binding Documents

Before his death, Howard Hughes — an American business magnate — discussed his wishes to donate his $2.5-billion estate to medical research. However, Hughes had not created any valid documentation clarifying these wishes. Instead, after his death, his estate planning lawyers divided his fortune amongst his 22 cousins.

Howard Hughes’ story illustrates the immense importance of creating legally binding documentation about your wishes and plans for your estate. You may have ideas about what you want to do with your real estate, property, and assets, but if you do not create a legal estate plan with an estate planning attorney, your plans may never come to fruition after your death.

Grandfather celebrates with grandchildren about updating his estate plan to include them

Lesson 3: Make Your Wishes Clear To Your Family Members

Casey Kasem, the renowned radio host, created an official estate plan with his attorney before his passing in 2014. However, his wife and children from a previous marriage fought extensively over his health decisions and even the disposition of his body after his death.

These arguments worsened over the days after his death, leading to the kidnapping of his corpse and an embarrassing situation all around. Kasem’s wife and children clearly disagreed about Kasem’s wishes after his passing, leading to these heated arguments. 

Our founder, Jackie Bedard, had the opportunity to meet Casey’s daughter, Kerri Kasem, who now advocates for families in similar situations. Jackie appeared on Kerri’s radio show several years ago to discuss issues relating to aging and family dynamics, “having a parent in failing health is stressful enough. No family should have to go through what Casey and his family experienced in his final dates. Their story is gut-wrenching.”

Attorney Jackie Bedard on radio show discussing discuss issues relating to aging and family dynamics

Kasem’s story highlights the importance of making your wishes clear not only to your estate planning attorney but also to your family members. Even if you think your family members will act civilly after your death, you never know the types of emotions and actions grief can stir in them.

We recommend sitting down with your immediate family members and discussing your estate plan in detail. Then, you can ensure that your family respects your wishes and will help them come to pass after your death.

Lesson 4: Update Your Estate Plan Often

Michael Crichton, the author of “Jurassic Park,” passed away while his wife was pregnant with their son. Typically, California statutes would have included his unborn son in his estate, even though Crichton did not edit the will to include his son.

However, Crichton’s will included direct language that excluded heirs not previously mentioned in the will. As a result, his son did not receive any direct inheritance.

Crichton likely did not anticipate passing away before his son’s birth, leading him to omit the name of his son in his will. However, in hindsight, Crichton should have updated his estate plan as soon as he knew that his wife was pregnant.

Crichton’s story showcases the importance of updating your will and other estate planning documentation to reflect any possible changes to your wishes or family. Your estate plan can never be too detailed or inclusive. However, excluding even one detail could lead to disagreements and conflicts after your death.

Carolina Family Estate Planning: Estate Planning Attorneys You Can Trust

You don’t need to be an expert in estate planning to create a legal plan that reflects your wishes for your property and assets. Instead, you simply need to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to help you avoid all the above celebrity mistakes.

At Carolina Family Estate Planning, our attorneys have years of experience helping clients feel confident in their plans for their estates. We help families build better lives by planning for a secure future via estate planning, asset protection, and long-term care planning. If you’re looking for an “estate attorney near me” or “estate tax attorney near me,” contact us today at 919-443-3035 to schedule your needs assessment call. 

Copyright © 2022. Carolina Family Estate Planning. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning
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