Berman & Asbel, LLP

The estate planning mistakes of celebrities

Many Pennsylvania residents were shocked and saddened when media outlets reported in April 2016 that Prince had died at the age of 57. The iconic performer was renowned for both his groundbreaking music and business acumen, so it came as a surprise to many when it was revealed that he had failed to write a will or put any kind of estate plan into place. This oversight likely means that millions of dollars will go to attorneys, bankers and the U.S. government instead of to his heirs or charitable endeavors.

Whitney Houston did write a will, but she failed to update it as her estate grew to be worth more than $20 million. This meant that her daughter received $2 million when she turned 18, and the pressures of sudden wealth may have contributed to her tragic death less than three years later. Michael Jackson had a comprehensive estate plan in place, but he failed to put many of his assets in the trusts that he had set up. His heirs have had to appear in probate court on several occasions because of this omission.

Heath Ledger failed to change his will after his daughter was born, and this meant that his entire estate was left to his parents and siblings after he died of a tragic drug overdose in 2008. Ledger's relatives realized that this would not have been what the "Brokeback Mountain" star would have wanted, so they created a trust for his daughter. However, most experts would agree that it is best not to leave these things to chance.

The estate planning mistakes of celebrities can serve as valuable lessons to individuals who feel that they can put off these decisions because they have plenty of time. Attorneys with experience in this area could explain how approaching these issues in a proactive way can prevent heirs from becoming embroiled in bitter disputes and provide peace of mind.

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