Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law
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Learn about estate planning from the rich and famous

In estate planning, the possibilities for making mistakes are many. One thing that estate planning attorney enjoy doing is reviewing the mistakes made  in estate planning so as to better avoid those mistakes in the future. As with divorce cases, us regular people can learn a lot by looking at the mistakes of famous celebrities. As well, one can learn from what they did well.

While there are many possible examples to point to in celebrity estate planning, one of the more recent ones is that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who—despite the many mistakes in his estate plan—did include an element of creativity in his estate planning with respect to where his son was to be raised. The important lesson in this is that estate planning is only good when it meets your needs and desires. 

Family fighting is a common occurrence in the world of probate and estate administration. Thorough estate planning takes this into account and looks ahead for opportunities to decrease potential fighting. Frank Sinatra knew this and successfully used strategies to discourage his family from bringing lawsuits after his death.

Another example of estate planning done well is Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, which involved a trust funded with her assets. Because she used a trust, she was able to avoid probate and her estate’s business matters are not public. Privacy is only one benefit of using trusts in estate planning.

Heath Ledger can be used as an example of the importance of updating your estate planning documents. Ledger reportedly failed to update his will and trust after the birth of his daughter, which left his family in disarray after his death as to whether the assets would go to his daughter or his other family. In the end, the family resolved the issue on its own, but a lot of money could easily have been spent in court hashing the issue out.

The bottom line here is that it is important to keep in mind the various pitfalls of estate planning when going through the process. Doing so will help you to put together a more effective plan. We can learn from the celebrities about what to do and what not to do, so keep your eyes open for news stories touching on this topic. 

Source: Forbes, “Oscar Winners Teach Five Lessons On Estate Planning,” Mayoras, March 2, 2014. 

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