By Darlynn Morgan, Newport Beach Estate Planning Lawyer

Just when you thought the world was finished with Anna Nicole Smith’s legal woes and the troubled actress could finally rest in peace, another ugly court battle is underway.    Only this time it involves the trial of her doctors and former boyfriend, who are accused of illegally providing Anna Nicole with the prescription drugs that led to her untimely death.

This latest court battle comes on the heels of a devastating blow to her estate (and the financial security of her daughter), as the  U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in March that she was not entitled to any of her ex-husband’s (oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall) estate.

Of course Ms. Smith believed right up until her death that she was entitled to half of his fortune, claiming Marshall promised it to her when they got married.  However, Marshall had not updated his will and trust so the entire estate was awarded to Marshall’s son.

And as in the case of most estate planning nightmares, (which also happens every day among average people like you and me!) all of this drama regarding Marshall’s estate plan could have been avoided with a simple update to his will and trust.

According to a Wills & Estate Planning survey conducted in conjunction with in December 2009, only 35 percent of adult Americans have wills, 29 percent have a power of attorney document and 18 percent have a trust.  And those numbers would likely dwindle substantially if you took out the number of people who have outdated documents.

That is a lot of money going to the court system, lawyers…and quite frankly, down the drain!

The survey also found that 71% of Americans believe that given today’s economy, it is more important to focus on saving money than to spend it on long-term planning for their estate.  But, as the story of Anna Nicole Smith shows us, the cost to resolve an out of date estate plan can be far greater in the long run.

The only way to know the real cost of leaving behind an outdated, or even no estate plan, would be to meet with an experienced Newport Beach estate planning attorney.  We’ve made that process easier than ever by offering 10 free Family Wealth Planning Sessions (normally $750) to the first people who call our office each month.   These appointments do go very fast, so if you are ready to protect your family, wishes and assets should something happen to you, secure your spot by calling (949) 260-1400 today.