Estate Planning Lessons from Hollywood Stars


Good and bad estate planning can occur, regardless of income or fame. We can learn some valuable lessons from the actions and mistakes of these celebrities.


1) BE CREATIVE – Your Estate Plan should reflect your priorities and wishes. When Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed, his will identified his desires on where his son should be raised, how he should be raised (exposed to culture, arts, and architecture. (HERE)

  • Providing instructions for your Guardians gives important direction and helps make sure your children are raised how you would prefer

2) PRESERVE HARMONY – Your plans can anticipate potential problems and preserve family harmony. The late Elizabeth Taylor successfully used trust planning to maintain a peaceful outcome. Her plans were kept private, out of probate, and administered all of her assets.

  • Thorough planning can preserve harmony and lead to successful transitions

3) STAY UPDATED– As your life changes and your family changes, your plans will also need to adapt. Heath Ledger’s will famously omit his only daughter, leading to questions about what he intended and who should be his beneficiaries. Fortunately, his family members agreed to gift their shares to his daughter, preventing costly legal battles. (HERE)

  • You should review your will or trust annually and ask if it addresses your current family, assets, and wishes.

4) PUT IT IN WRITING – Verbal promises may result in confusion and later legal fights to sort out intentions. Marlon Brando’s estate faced multiple lawsuits after he passed because parties argued about his true intentions and the verbal gifts he promised but did not address in his estate planning documents.

  • Verbal promises may be unclear, maybe forgotten, or maybe in conflict with other intentions. To avoid later doubts it should be written out.

Estate planning anticipates and minimizes future problems, for the benefit of your family and loved ones.


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