Did you know that more than half of all adults in America do not have a Last Will and Testament? That number is even fewer when it comes to Revocable Living Trusts. You’d think more people would create an estate plan, especially since there are so many public figures who famously left a mess for their families by not planning ahead. Here are four of the most powerful cautionary tales hand-picked by our Newport Beach will lawyers:
Number one on this list is Warren Burger, who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for 27 years. Shortly before he died in 1995, Burger drafted a single page Last Will and Testament that was full of misspellings and typos. The document did not give his executors the ability to manage his estate. This error cost Burger’s children approximately $450,000 in estate taxes, which could have easily been saved with proper estate planning.
While Michael Jackson left behind a Trust to care for his family and manage his estate after he died in 2009, his Last Will and Testament did not properly transfer his assets to the Trust. The result of this seemingly simple error? Jackson’s estate was embroiled in a probate proceeding that made public many of the dealings Jackson wanted to keep private, such as cash allowances to his family members. Proper estate planning would have ensured that Jackson’s estate did not have to go through probate and his financial affairs stayed private.
Bob Marley did not create a Last Will and Testament due to religious reasons, and many legal battles have occurred because of this since his 1981 death. Jamaican laws of intestacy gave his spouse a 55% share of his assets, while the other 45% was split between his 12 children. Legal issues arose concerning his likeness, musical library, and other issues, all of which have been fought over in court between family members, band mates, and even accountants and lawyers. The value of Marley’s estate shrank dramatically because of all the legal costs involved.
Billionaire Howard Hughes had no immediate family or direct descendants when he died at age 70 – and he also failed to leave behind a Last Will and Testament. While many argued that Hughes wanted his estate to go to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute rather than any of his distant relatives, those supposed wishes were not entirely carried out because of the lack of a Will. Hughes’ estate was split between the medical institute and nearly 200 other family members. While that sounds bad enough, the fact that the estate wasn’t settled until 2010 – 34 years after Hughes’ death – makes the matter even worse.
If you would like to make sure your estate plan is ready to carry out your wishes after you pass away, please call (949) 260-1400 to set up a consultation with our trust administration attorneys.