Scary Estate Planning Stories

Halloween Creepy HillDon’t fail your family the way these 4 celebrities failed theirs

With haunted houses, horror films and talk of zombies, October is a great month to review a few scary estate stories. Instead of failing to properly plan for your family, learn from these cautionary tales. Make sure your family doesn’t experience the fate of the following four celebrities, whose estate planning fiascos negatively impacted their heirs:

  1. Pablo Picasso – With 45,000 works, complicated by countless Seated Woman by Pablo Picassoauthentications, rights, and licensing deals, the famous artist died in 1973 at 91, without a will. The status of his estate is referred to as “intestate.” Picasso isn’t the first, or last, celebrity to die without a will. However, few intestates have caused such a stir. After his death, his six heirs fought for six years over the wealth and assets he left behind.

    Heath Ledger, who played the Joker, failed to update his estate plans.

    Heath Ledger, who played the Joker, failed to update his estate plans.

  2. Heath Ledger – At 28, Heath Ledger’s death in 2008 shocked the world. In his youthful folly, the will he left failed to account for the birth of his daughter, Matilda. Fortunately, his family decided to include her in the inheritance, nonetheless, granting her riches as well as custody of his Academy Award for best actor in the motion picture, The Dark Knight. If his family had insisted on adhering to the terms of Heath’s will, his daughter could have been left out in the cold. Take a lesson from this. Make sure you update your estate after any significant changes to your family situation. This could include changes which occur following a life-changing epiphany concerning your core values and legacy. Another lesson from the Ledger Estate is that you need to plan even if you are young and healthy.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman didn't want his kids to be trust fund babies.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t want his kids to be trust fund babies.

  3. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t want his children to grow up as “trust-fund babies.” So, he decided to leave his $12 million inheritance to his girlfriend – trusting her to care for his children on his behalf, in the event of his death. The problem is that there was nothing in writing about his wishes, thus no guarantee this would occur. The couple wasn’t married. So, Hoffman’s estate incurred significant tax liabilities. Make sure your trust includes your detailed guidelines about the proper use of funds. This is much better than hoping for the best.
  4. Estate Planning can provide for your heirs.

    Estate Planning can provide for your heirs.

    Tom Clancy – Author Tom Clancy left behind a large fortune — $84 million. But his estate planning documents were not clear about important details. This led to drama for family members. The more complicated your family, assets, and business dealings, the more accurate, precise, and proactive you need to be when you work with an estate planning attorney such as the staff at Skvarna Law Firm in Glendora and Upland, California.

Key Estate Planning Points

  • Keep estate planning documents in place, even if you’re young and healthy and think you’ll have plenty of time.
  • If something in your life or family situation changes (marriage, birth, death or belief system), update your plans accordingly. Do not assume that, since you have a plan in place, it’ll automatically update to match your current desires and needs.
  • Provide very specific guidance to your family about how you’d like them to use their inheritance. Do not rely on hope or verbal instructions. The best place for guidance is in your trust or intent letter, which can help your trustee manage your trust.
  • If you’re well-off or have complex assets, proactively work with a trust lawyer to avoid potential missteps while still achieving your goals.House and calculator on white background

About Skvarna Law

When you’re ready to draft your estate documents, give our attorneys a call to set an appointment. Skvarna Law Firm operates offices in Glendora and Upland, California and provides legal services for individuals living in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties. This includes the cities of Upland, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Colton, Rialto, Chino, Chino Hills, Glendora, Claremont, Pomona, La Verne, San Dimas, Azusa, Covina, West Covina, Diamond Bar, Walnut, La Puente, Corona, Norco & Mira Loma. Visit to learn more.