Berman & Asbel, LLP

Will contest begins for Mickey Rooney's family

Estate planning documents suited to your situation such as a will, a revocable trust, durable powers of attorney, guardianships and health care directives are imperative in planning for your family’s future and preventing lengthy and contentious court battles after your death. Estate planning is essential in looking out for loved ones and helping reduce disputes over assets.

One recent legal battle has involved the estate of movie legend Mickey Rooney. Notably, the disputes surround an estate that is valued at just $18,000, which may be considered a small amount for an actor whose career spanned 90 years.

The actor’s will, which was revised shortly before his death, disinherited his wife, from whom he has been estranged for two years, his eight biological children and two of his stepchildren. Rooney instead left his estate to one of his wife’s sons who had cared for him during the last two years of his life.

As is often the case in a will contest, Rooney’s wife and other children are disputing the will based upon their assessment of Rooney’s mental capacity at the time he revised the will.

However, Rooney’s attorney has said the elderly movie star had recently filmed scenes that required him to learn lines that he had no trouble remembering, demonstrating that he was mentally competent and capable of making decisions about his estate.

While a dispute over the estate of a beloved celebrity like Mickey Rooney may not represent the estate administration of the average person, the time, money and emotion being spent on any will contest can be destructive and detrimental to family relations. But dying without a will can cause even more problems for heirs and beneficiaries.

The best option is to plan ahead for your specific situation to make sure that your wishes are carried out and to minimize or avoid family drama associated with the administration of an estate.

As the Rooney case demonstrates, whether you are a seasoned actor or live your life out of the limelight in Pennsylvania, the issues can be the same. Consulting an attorney for advice based on your circumstances may help you avoid the battles like those involving the Rooney estate.

Source: CNN, “Mickey Rooney’s Widow Contests Late Actor’s Will,” Alan Duke, May 9, 2014

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