You’d be forgiven for thinking that the rich and famous would have thoughtfully constructed wills aided by the best advice that money can buy, but the truth is that like the rest of us, estate planning is something they don’t always do well.
His will left everything to his wife after his death in 2009, but his mother and siblings remain convinced that the will was changed while he was hospitalised prior to his death. However, because they did not file a formal lawsuit to challenge the will within 5 years of his death, they no longer have legal recourse.
Lesson Learnt: strict time limits apply if you want to contest a will.
The writer died with an estate worth $82 million, and while he had a will and trusts in place to deal with his assets, the documents were unclear about how taxes and debts of the estate ought to be paid. The family is now locked in a bitter battle about who should foot the $8 million bill.
Lesson Learnt: your will should be drafted by a specialist in estate planning, who can avoid any ambiguity and potential estate litigation.
The actor died at the young age of 40 and had executed a will in 2001, the year his movie The Fast and the Furious made him famous. But he had failed to update his will since then.
Lesson Learnt: Wills should be updated every five years or so, and every time there is a significant life event such as a marriage, divorce or birth of a child.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
The actor didn’t want his kids to be ‘trust fund babies’ and refused to set up a trust despite the advice of lawyers. Instead, he left his money to his estranged wife and the mother of his children. However, in doing so he left an enormous tax bill.
Lesson Learnt: proper estate planning can minimise the tax payable, and therefore pass on more wealth to beneficiaries.
The reclusive aviator and engineer died in 1976 with an estate worth $2 billion – but he had failed to execute a will at all. The courts were therefore required to divide his estate according to the rules of intestacy. Eventually, 22 cousins received a slice of the estate after years of bitter fighting.
Lesson Learnt: make sure you have a will! The rules of intestacy (dying without a will) means that a court will divide your assets in a way you mightn’t have wanted.
Wills are almost always more complex than a single sheet of paper. The issues listed above could have been avoided with advice from a specialist in estate planning.
If you need help with your will, please contact us today.