Celebrity Probate Mishaps: What Can We Learn From Them?

“But life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.”

-Prince, 1999

 

Prince really should have listened to his music lyrics. No one ever intends to leave a mess behind when they die, but a little estate planning can ensure that your loved ones are protected and that an executor distributes your assets that way you wish rather than letting the law decide for you. Here are some more lessons we can learn from celebrity probate mistakes and mishaps:

 

Prince

The probate battle over Prince’s estate is a nightmare. The pop icon died unexpectedly in 2016, leaving no will and no estate plan. Since Prince died intestate, the state of Minnesota will divide up his estate among his heirs. In Prince’s case, his heirs are his six siblings and half-siblings. Before the court could divide his estate, there was a fight about who his legal heirs were. Two years after his death, the attorneys had been paid millions in fees, but his estate still was not settled.

The lesson to learn? Creating an estate plan can protect your legacy and avoid unnecessary legal and probate costs. Do not let an earlier experience or distrust of the legal system keep you from making plans for your loved ones.

 

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, died at the age of 27. He left a simple, two-page will that left his entire estate to his long-term girlfriend, Pamela Courson. His will left his estate to his brother and sister if Pamela died before him. Morrison was estranged from his parents and did not mention them in his will. When Morrison died, his assets were relatively modest, but he owned a 25% interest in The Doors.

Morrison’s girlfriend died three years after him, intestate, meaning she left no will. By the laws of intestate, her estate passed to her parents. But Morrison’s parents then claimed Morrison’s estate, arguing that Morrison was incompetent to make a will and had no common-law marriage with Courson, meaning they should have inherited his entire estate. At this point, his estate exceeded tens of millions of dollars due to the rising popularity of The Doors after his death. Notably, Morrison did not want his parents to inherit his estate. Courson’s parents eventually ended up settling with Morrison’s parents, splitting the estate equally.

The lesson to learn? An overly simplistic plan (such as a holographic will) can result in unintended consequences. Jim Morrison could have created a trust for his assets, benefiting Courson for her lifetime and, when she died, pass it to his siblings. His parents would then have had no claim to his estate.

 

If you are beginning the estate planning process or updating your plans, Hegwood Law Group offers comprehensive estate planning services that can ensure you avoid a costly probate process. Call us at (281) 885-8826, or click here to schedule your consultation.

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