Berman & Asbel, LLP

Celebrities make estate planning mistakes too

Pennsylvania music fans have by now likely heard that Prince may not have written a will before he died. His sister filed court documents in which she stated that she did not know about the existence of a will. It may be surprising that someone with a multi-million dollar fortune died without a will, but celebrities are prone to make huge estate planning mistakes just like everybody else.

Nearly two-thirds of adults haven't written even the simplest will. When people die without one, their assets pass in accordance with intestacy law regardless of what their wishes may have been. Because Amy Winehouse died without a will, her $6.7 million fortune was passed to her parents. It will never be known whether Winehouse would have liked to have some of her wealth distributed to her brother, friends or favorite charities.

Another estate planning mistake that is frequently made is failing to update estate plans. When author Michael Crichton died, his will had not been updated to include any provisions for his most current wife and child. The oversight resulted in Crichton's widow going to court and fighting for an inheritance for her child. She won, but not before her petition was opposed by Crichton's daughter.

Even people who have drafted detailed wills may be making a mistake by neglecting to set up a trust. A trust can help to keep the details of a person's estate plan private and, as they are not subject to what can be a lengthy and expensive probate process, beneficiaries can in many cases receive their distributions more promptly.

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