People in Massachusetts can learn from the high-profile estate planning mistakes of celebrities. Several, including Aretha Franklin, Prince and Howard Hughes, died without an estate plan. More than half of actor James Gandolfini’s estate went to pay taxes since he left only 20% of it to his wife.
Singer James Brown left assets to children, grandchildren and an educational foundation, but the language in his documents was unclear. As a result, his estate ended up in litigation, and the estate paid millions in tax. Michael Jackson created a trust that he failed to fund while heiress Doris Duke appointed her butler as head of her foundation, to which she left $1.2 billion. This led to litigation arguing that the foundation was mismanaged.
Radio personality Casey Kasem was still alive when children from a previous relationship and his wife began fighting about his end-of-life care. After his death, they continued fighting over the disposition of his body. Novelist Michael Crichton died when his second wife was pregnant. He had not revised his will and trust to provide for his unborn son, and his daughter from an earlier relationship tried to keep the estate away from the child. To avoid these errors, people should review their estate plans regularly to ensure they are up to date and correct.
Adults who do not have an estate planning plan of attack may want to consider creating one even if they have few assets. There are a number of elements to an estate plan. For example, a guardian for minor children can be appointed with a will, and powers of attorney can appoint people to manage finances and health care if the person is incapacitated. If there is a beneficiary who is likely to be irresponsible with money, a trust can be created that leaves distributions at the discretion of the trustee.