Lessons from Paul Newman of what not to do in estate planning

Estate planning can be a difficult and confusing process. This process can be made even more complicated when you have a business or foundation that your family members may be involved in. This appears to be the case with Paul Newman’s family. The Newman’s Own company and foundation started in 1980 when actor Paul Newman and author A.E. Hotchner began making homemade salad dressing and giving it to neighbors as Christmas presents who came by as they were caroling. Newman’s Own made a profit of almost one million dollars two years later and donated most of it to charity. Then in 1993, Newman’s daughter Nell began Newman’s Own Organics, a division of the company. Newman’s Own now makes pasta sauce, popcorn, salsa, frozen pizza and other products, and the company has stated that it has given away more than $400 million to charities such as summer camps for seriously ill children.

Newman had his attorney draft a letter in 1999, that stated his intention to give his children the major voice in distributing funds for charity. He stated these intentions again in meetings in 2006 with family members, lawyers, and accountants and it was also on a 2007 video interview.

After Newman went into the hospital changes were made to his estate plan and on April 11, 2008 he rewrote his will and appointed two associates to controlling positions in the Newman’s Own Foundation on July 29, two months before his death. When his will was read, his family members learned that Newman’s daughters would not be on the board of the Newman’s Own Foundation and that millions of dollars for their personal foundations would go instead to Newman’s wife’s marital trust. Newman’s family now claims that Newman’s Own, and its foundation are being  mismanaged by the man who’s served as chief executive for several years. The dispute has to do with concerns about the changes Paul Newman made to his estate plan in his final years.

It is important that when a family has a business or foundation together like in this case, that communication about who is to be in charge is made clear from the beginning. This can be done by making it clear who is the administrators of the business or foundation instead of just giving and including all family members in the business as soon as possible. These steps will help to make sure the family business and your family members are honored even after you pass away.

If you need help making sure that your estate plan is the best option for your family members and perhaps even for a business that you may own, then you should contact one of our experienced estate planning lawyers at the Higgins Firm. We know how important your loved ones are to you and we will help you discuss your options and make the best estate planning choices for you so that your family and the work you do is protected long into the future even after you pass away. If you need help or have questions about estate planning, you should speak to a Tennessee estate planning lawyer with the Higgins Firm. We will answer any questions you may have and discuss your options with you so that you can protect your loved ones and your businesses even when you are no longer around.

Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.