Biggest Estate Planning Stories of 2020

The lives of the rich and famous may not seem very relatable, but we can learn valuable lessons about planning from their mistakes. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the biggest estate planning stories of the year so far and what we can learn from them.

Fred Trump and the NDA

Has anyone missed the news about the new book by Mary Trump, President Trump’s niece? Simon and Schuster marketed her recent book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, as a tell-all about the Trump family. In June of 2020, Robert Trump, the President’s brother who later died in August of 2020, brought a suit against Mary Trump and the publisher. The lawsuit cited a non-disclosure agreement Mary signed in 2001, settling a lawsuit over her grandfather’s estate. The court sided with Mary Trump, holding that the NDA signed at the end of litigation over Fred Trump’s estate was too vague and likely related solely to financial details.

The years of litigation that ensued over Fred Trump Sr.’s estate, the nasty family arguments that resulted, and a later tell-all book about the famous family are reminders of the importance of estate planning. If an estate plan is clear and well planned, messy litigation and family conflicts are far less likely.

Prince’s Estate: Sign O’ the Times?

Even though Prince died in 2016, the controversy over his estate is still making headlines. When he died without a will, more than 45 people claimed to be the pop singer’s heir, but the court declared that Prince’s six siblings were his legal heirs. While experts believe the estate is worth hundreds of millions, the court has spent the last few years working to properly value Prince’s assets, including complicated intellectual property rights. To make things more complicated, one of Prince’s brothers died in 2019, leaving the court to determine where his share of the assets should go. According to documents filed with the court, attorneys and the estate administrators have spent more than $55 million trying to unravel the mess. The estate also faces a 40% federal inheritance tax and a 16% Minnesota estate tax.

What happened with Prince’s estate demonstrates why it is essential to plan while you are living. While no one likes to think about death, Prince could have avoided tens of millions in legal and administrative fees with a trust and thorough estate plan. Moreover, he could have avoided federal and state taxes that amount to more than half of the value of his estate.

Aretha Franklin’s Estate: A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T Please?

Like Prince, Aretha Franklin died years ago. But the family has been fighting over her estate since her passing in 2018. Her four sons initially believed their mother died without a will and agreed upon her niece, Sabrina Williams, as the administrator. Since then, the family has located three different wills. They found two wills dated from 2010 in a locked cabinet and a third handwritten in a notebook with cross-outs and notes in the margin. Ms. Franklin’s long-term attorney asked the court to determine if the wills are valid under Michigan law. Earlier this year, after months of family in-fighting, Ms. Williams stepped down as administrator for the estate.

The lesson we can learn here is the importance of making a will and regularly updating it. You should also always indicate which will takes precedence and explicitly revoke any previous wills in writing. Ms. Franklin’s family could face years of additional litigation over her estate because she failed to take this crucial step.

 

If you’re ready to begin planning for your loved ones, call Hegwood Law Group at (281) 885-8826 or click here to schedule your consultation with our experienced estate planning and elder law attorneys.

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