Celebrity Will Mistakes- Avoiding Similar Potential Problems

Celebrities may feel that their lives are always being scrutinized by the public eye. That scrutiny can even carry over when a celebrity passes away. Despite having access to some of the best estate-planning advice, a few wealthy celebrities left behind huge legal fees and taxes, bitter court fights, and other issues. Below you can see how drafting a will and keeping it updated can avoid any potential problems that may arise for your loved ones.

Gary Coleman

Gary Coleman, former child actor and star of the television show Diff’rent Strokes, died unexpectedly in 2010 at the age of 42 after sustaining a fall.

Following his death, Coleman’s estate was tangled in a number of legal problems. He had left behind two different wills. He had his first will drafted in 1999 leaving everything to his former manager. Coleman then had another will drafted in 2005 which left his estate to a friend who once ran his business. Following his marriage in 2007, Coleman drafted a codicil, or an amendment, to his second will leaving everything to his wife. The handwritten codicil contained some peculiar wording in an attempt to assert that Coleman had not been coerced into changing his will. He added, “This I have done because of my personal selfishness and weakness and I love her with all of my heart.”

However, Coleman and his wife divorced one year later which then invalidated the codicil under state law. Following Coleman’s death, his ex-wife argued in probate court that she should still inherit the estate because the two had still lived together following the divorce. The court was not persuaded by her argument.

It is important to update your will after any major life changes. Similarly, it is also important to use clear language when drafting a will to express your interests.

Anna Nicole Smith

At age 26, Anna Nicole Smith infamously married 89-year-old billionaire J. Howard Marshall II. This obviously fueled speculation that Smith had married Marshall for his money. Following the marriage, Marshall’s son assisted his father in the drafting of a will that left Smith nothing and did not even acknowledge her as his spouse. Marshall died a little over a year following the marriage.

Marshall’s death started a highly contested and lengthy legal battle over his estate between his son and Smith that continued even after Smith’s death in 2007. However, when Smith died, her will added even more confusion to the ongoing legal battle. In her will, Smith had left everything to her son while also choosing to intentionally omit any spouse or future spouse or children from her will. Smith’s will was drafted before the pregnancy and birth of her daughter. Following the death of Smith’s son and Smith, the court was left to determine whether Smith’s daughter would be able to inherit her estate.

It is important to understand the potential magnitude of disinheriting someone from your will whether that includes future or current heirs.

Steve McNair

Former star NFL quarterback was shot and killed by his mistress who then killed herself in 2009. McNair’s wife and children were left to learn about the scandalous revelation from his death. The heartache and burden placed on the McNair family did not end with the murder, though. McNair had never drafted a will, so the family had to endure his estate being frozen during the lengthy probate proceedings. McNair’s wife had to request the court release money for living expenses and to pay taxes that probably would not have been incurred if McNair had a decent estate plan. In addition, McNair’s mother was asked to begin paying $3,000 a month for rent on a ranch that the former quarterback had built for her and where she had resided for nearly 15 years.

It is important to note that a revocable living trust in a will would have prevented McNair’s estate from going to probate court and ensured privacy for the family.

If you need assistance drafting an effective will, contact The Higgins Firm. Our Tennessee wills attorneys would be happy to answer any of your questions.

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