Celebrity estate planning mistakes and what they’ve taught us

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2019 | Estate Planning

Whenever a celebrity passes away, settling the estate can be a complex process. But when they fail to plan for their death by creating a will, trust or estate plan, the consequences for their family and other beneficiaries can be severe. A drawn-out probate process and acrimonious legal battles often ensue.

While your estate may be considerably smaller than that of a movie star or musical icon, making the following celebrity estate planning mistakes could leave your assets in the hands of someone you didn’t intend. In today’s post, we examine three common mistakes to avoid:


If you pass away intestate — i.e., without a will — then the state is left to decide how to handle your estate in probate. This process can be lengthy — and family disputes can often eat up much of what would have gone to the beneficiaries. Prince passed away in 2016 without a will, and the legal battles are still ongoing. His family has yet to receive a dime in inheritance.

No matter your age, it’s worthwhile to draft a will, laying out your wishes in the event of your death. Make sure your loved ones know the whereabouts of your will. It can’t serve you if no one knows where to find it.

Not severing ties soon enough

When Barry White passed away in 2003, he was in the process of divorcing his wife — but the decree was not yet final. Consequently, his estranged wife received his entire inheritance — leaving his nine children and long-time girlfriend with nothing.

It’s critical to remove your ex as a beneficiary as soon as possible from your will, 401(k) plan and life insurance policy. If your ex has power of attorney, designate another person right away.

Failing to account for changed life circumstances

Heath Ledger created a will early in his acting career. When he was 25, he began a long-term relationship with actress Michelle Williams, and a year later they had a daughter. At age 28, Ledger died unexpectedly — but he never amended his will to include the new members of his family. Consequently, his entire inheritance went to his parents and siblings — though they later chose to give it to his daughter.

Your will should always reflect your current life circumstances. It’s crucial to update your will — and add or remove beneficiaries — as your circumstances change.

Implement the above lessons into your own estate plan to help ensure that your final wishes are carried out — and to spare your loved ones added heartache after your passing.