Many of my return readers (thank you) will have read in these pages a little while ago about a few celebrity estates and the Kardashians in particular with the thought that they put into their wills and end of life planning. Getting their nails done if they are in a coma was certainly a new one for me, but they did have a will and as they certainly put a lot of thought into it.
But what if a high profile person neglects or avoids estate planning and getting a will?
It turns out that celebrities are just like the rest of us…
When they die, their estates must go through a legal process to ensure that their wishes are carried out. It all comes down to their wills, from child guardianship to distributing their belongings.
The majority of us do not have multimillion-dollar estates. However, there are some important lessons we can learn when planning our own estates, and we need only to look at a couple of very high profile celebrity estates in the United States.
Prince, the late singer-songwriter, died in 2016 at the age of 57, and he is unfortunately one of the celebrities who died without leaving a will (there are many, unfortunately).
He also had no spouse or children, so his six half-siblings were named legal heirs by the court. A protracted and difficult legal battle ensued over the distribution of his $156.4 million estate. It took six years to settle the dispute.
Finally, in 2022, the estate was divided between two holding companies comprised of his half-siblings’ interests.
While the estate issue has been resolved, we will never know what Prince would have wanted. Unfortunately, dying without a will is extremely common, both among celebrity estates and regular folks who might not play their guitars shirtless while wearing high-heel boots.
Most of us do not have estates worth hundreds of millions of dollars either. However, dying intestate (without a will) can be expensive and stressful for everyone involved. It also places your estate’s fate in the hands of the legal system, and I’m sure you would rather avoid that. So do it for your family, get a will.
Aretha Franklin’s family believed she died without a will in 2018. In Michigan, her estate would have been distributed according to intestacy laws.
However, several handwritten documents that could be considered holographic wills were later discovered in her home. One of these documents was allegedly discovered under her couch cushions. This holographic will however, was heavily contested by her family due to several amendments and multiple documents.
Three years later, in 2021, a fourth draft of a will was published. This time, it was a document prepared by a law firm but not signed by the Queen of Soul.
Her estate has still not been settled as of 2022.
This happens in Canada more than you might think – that is if you think of other people’s wills at all – but seriously, it happens far too frequently than it should. Unfortunately, it always ends up in the hands of family members who are then forced to defend themselves against each other, or anyone else who wishes to make a claim against the estate. All very publicly before a judge. Don’t do that to your loved ones. Get a will.
What are the lessons?
In Canada, holographic wills and handwritten wills are both legal but not recommended. Only if you are in a bind or unable to complete a formal will should this be an option, and be prepared for it to be contested in court, because it likely will be.
It is easier than ever to get a will a now. Just get one.
I highly recommend willful for your online will (you can do it from home) and you can get 15% your will here: Willful 15% Off
It is critical that you inform your executor and loved ones of the location of the most recent version of your will. If you do not have a will which was Prince’s choice, or if you only have a holographic will, as in Aretha Franklin’s case, it can make it difficult to determine what your true final wishes were and that usually means a judge will decide. Just get a will.
THIS ARTICLE IS PROVIDED AS A GENERAL SOURCE OF INFORMATION ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED TO BE PERSONAL INVESTMENT OR LEGAL ADVICE. READERS SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR FINANCIAL OR LEGAL ADVISOR TO ENSURE IT IS SUITABLE FOR THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES.