It’s close to Halloween
And something terrifying is lurking in the dark
Under the lamplight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You want to scream
But the horror takes the sound before you make it
You start to frantically turn the page
As horror looks you right between the eyes
‘Cause this is what happens when you fail to estate plan!
And no one’s gonna save your family
From the lack of planning about to strike!
It’s spooky season, and many of us love a good scary story. “Celebrities, they’re just like us” seems to also be a favorite of many. So what happens when you merge celebrities, estate planning, and Halloween? You get Celebrity Horror Stories from Beyond the Grave: Estate Planning edition from an attorney who really wants to do one of those fun TikTok videos where you change the lyrics to fit your situation. For no mere mortal can resist-
The horror of celebrities failing to estate plan!
OK, so Michael Jackson’s Thriller is much better than my version, but did you know that Michael Jackson had a Revocable Trust that he did not fund while he was alive?
“Funding the Trust” is the process of transferring your assets from your possession to your Trust. In order to fund the Trust, you must physically change the titles of your assets from your individual name, or if married, your joint names, into the name of the Trust.
Michael Jackson never did this while alive, so a probate case had to be opened in court in order to fund the Trust. Probate proceedings are public proceedings, and one of the key reasons to have a Trust is to avoid your estate being administered in public probate proceedings. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to neglect to actually fund their Trust during their lifetime. It’s also not uncommon for people to partially fund their Trust but to leave items outside of the trust that then have to go through probate court. Understanding the importance of estate planning is not enough to protect your family if you don’t follow through with the steps that actually complete the plan.
You may have heard that the musician Prince died without a Will or an estate plan. When this happens, it’s referred to as dying intestate. Because he had no plan in place, the state of Minnesota’s rules of intestacy decided where his assets went after his death.
When Prince died, his estate was worth millions of dollars. Prince did not have children and his parents predeceased him, so his estate went equally to his siblings. But there was one big speed bump on the way to closing his estate: an alleged child conceived by Prince. DNA tests and circumstances proved him to not be his son, but this could have resulted in Prince’s entire estate going to a child Prince never knew about. A Will or a Trust can specify whether you intend to provide for future-born children or whether you intend to specifically disinherit certain family members.
Most recently, Anne Heche, a famous actress who died in a car accident this year, died without a Will or an estate plan, leaving behind a 13-year-old child and a 20-year-old child. Without a designation of who would be the executor/administrator of her estate and the guardian of the minor child’s estate, the default would be the 20-year-old son. He was left to administer this complicated, taxable probate estate because his mom didn’t have a better plan in place. The minor child will receive his full share of the estate, outright, at the age of 18. To make things more complicated, Anne’s ex-boyfriend, James Tupper, claims that Anne left him in charge of her estate in a Will that was allegedly emailed to him in 2011 when they were still dating.
We all hope and expect to live until our children are grown, but we are not guaranteed that. A solid estate plan can allow you to provide the court and your family and friends clarity about your values and the important things that you want to leave behind as your legacy.
How to Avoid Your Own Horror Story
Don’t get scared! Thinking about death is never pleasant, but we can learn important lessons from these celebrities:
- Get a Last Will & Testament completed the proper way. Don’t cut corners that leave weaknesses that can lead to litigation over whether it was a valid Will.
- If you have minor children, make sure you have guardianship designations in your Will.
- If you have a Trust, fully fund it.
‘Cause this is an estate planning fright!
There ain’t no second chance against death!
The attorneys at Greenberg & Sinkovits are skilled in making sure their clients’ estates are protected and that their Wills are airtight. Contact us today for a free consultation.