It is a common misconception that having money means you hire the best advisors and have your life completely in order, but this is not always the case. With all the millions some celebrities have, you’d think they would be able to afford proper Estate Planning advice. But too often after celebrities die, we learn that they made some simple blunders that trigger years of court battles or cost their heirs millions of dollars., Here are some examples of some famous mistakes.
Prince Rogers Nelson
Mistake: Not having a Will. The April 2016 death of entertainer Prince wasn’t just shocking because he was only 57 years old. Many people were surprised the “Purple Rain” singer had no Will. Now a Minnesota judge is deciding how to distribute Prince’s estimated $300 million Estate among six siblings. Other potential heirs have surfaced, too, including a federal inmate claiming to be Prince’s son.
Mistake: Not updating the Will. Songstress Whitney Houston had a Will when she drowned in February 2012, but it was quite outdated. Drawn up a month before the 1993 birth of Houston’s only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, the Will was never revised — not even as the singer’s fortune climbed to $20 million. Bobbi Kristina was 18 when her mother died, and under the Will’s terms was to receive 10 percent of the estate — $2 million — when she turned 21 and the rest later.
Mistake: Not finishing planning. Sopranos actor James Gandolfini was reportedly worth $70 million when he died in June 2013 of a heart attack in Rome. His Will provided for his widow, daughter, and two sisters (his son from his first marriage was provided for in other ways). But Gandolfini didn’t use proper tax planning. The result: The Estate ended up paying federal and state estate taxes at a hefty rate of 55 percent.
Mistake: Making oral promises. Actor Marlon Brando had an estate plan for his $100 million fortune when he died in July 2004. The problem was, his written plan excluded certain oral promises he allegedly made to his long-term housekeeper, Angela Borlaza. She filed two lawsuits claiming she was illegally kicked out of Brando’s California home. The former maid said the house was a gift to her from Brando. The actor, though, never completed the paperwork to transfer the deed to give Borlaza legal ownership.
Mistake: Inadvertently omitting a child. After actor Heath Ledger died in January 2008, reports surfaced that he had failed to update an old Will created before his daughter was born. As a result, Ledger’s entire $20 million Estate went to his parents and three sisters.
Florence Griffith Joyner
Mistake: Keeping a Will’s location secret. Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner had a Will when she died in September 1998. The problem: No one knew where “Flo Jo” kept it. It threw her relatives into an Estate Planning battle because they couldn’t find her original Will. And without the Will, it took four long years to close her probate estate.