There are few if any figures from the classic rock era that are more iconic than Doors lead singer Jim Morrison. He was a hard living wild child, and he could never find inner peace. Ultimately, he passed away in Paris, France from an apparent drug overdose.
This was on July 3, 1971, so the 50th anniversary of his death was recently recognized, and many people are thinking about as legacy. From an estate planning perspective, he made a major mistake that provides an instructive example.
Limitations of a Simple Will
Jim Morrison was not shy about sharing his absolute disdain for his parents. He essentially disowned them while he was living, so there is no way that he would have wanted them to inherit his resources.
It would not surprise anyone if an irreverent young rock star in his 20s didn’t have a will, but this was not the case. He executed a legally valid will before he passed, and the sole beneficiary to the estate was his girlfriend, Pamela Courson.
There was a caveat because Morrison knew that Courson’s drug problem could kill her shortly after his passing. The will stated that she would not receive the inheritance unless she was alive for at least 90 days after his death. His siblings were named as the alternate beneficiaries.
She did eventually receive the inheritance because she lived for another two years, but she never executed a will or any other estate planning documents. Under the intestate succession laws, her parents were in line to inherit her resources, including the Morrison estate.
This would certainly not be consistent with his wishes, and his parents made that contention when they filed a lawsuit. The two parties ultimately decided to split the ongoing royalties and the existing estate, and the suit was settled.
Trust Protections and Successor Beneficiaries
If Morrison would have worked with an estate planning attorney to develop a truly effective plan to cover all of his bases, this outcome could have been avoided. A trust could have been utilized, and a professional fiduciary could have been named as the trustee.
Since Pamela Courson was not a financial professional, and she had significant personal problems, there is no reason to think she would be able to effectively manage an ongoing enterprise. After all, Morrison estate was raking in significant royalties day after day.
A professional would have been in a better position to manage the assets, and certain safeguards could have been put into place to preserve the assets. Morrison could have named his siblings as successor beneficiaries, and they would have inherited the assets after Courson’s death.
Loss of Privacy
All the details are known to us because a will is admitted to probate. This is a legal process that takes place under the supervision of a court, and it is public, so the records are available to anyone that is interested in obtaining them.
You probably want your final affairs to be conducted confidentially, and you can preserve your privacy if you utilize a living trust as your asset transfer vehicle.
There is no loss of control of the assets because you would act as the trustee while you are living. You would retain the right of revocation, so you would not be taking a risk with regard to your access to the assets on every level.
After your death, the successor trustee that you name in the trust declaration would be able to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries outside of probate. This is one of the benefits that living trusts provide, but it is not the only one, and this is why they are very widely utilized.
Attend a Free Seminar!
The best way to come away with a more thorough understanding of the estate planning process is to attend one of our seminars. They cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, and there is no charge, so you should definitely take advantage of one of these opportunities.
You can see the dates if you head over to our Glastonbury, CT Estate Planning Seminar page. When you identify the session you would like to attend, follow the simple instructions to register so we can reserve your spot.