Over the years, celebrities have made estate planning mistakes that have yielded negative consequences. These scenarios can be instructive for others, because you see a practical example of the way things can go awry if you don’t take the right steps in advance. Let’s look at three of these situations that provide valuable insight.
Former Football Star Steve McNair
Steve McNair was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in his prime, and his life was snuffed out in violent fashion. In 2009, he was murdered by a woman with whom he was romantically entangled prior to the event. He was also married at the time of his passing.
McNair did not have a will or any other estate planning documents, so he died intestate. Under those circumstances, the probate court will supervise the estate administration process. Since there is no executor named in a will, the court will appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.
They will typically choose the closest living relative. In this case, it was McNair’s widow. He was also survived by his mother, who lived in a home that was technically owned by McNair. However, he bought the home specifically for her to live in. The widow decided that she was going to start charging fair market rent for this large house on a significant patch of land.
McNair’s mother, Lucille, did not have that kind of money. She was forced to move, and she brought belongings along that she considered to be hers. McNair’s widow, Mechelle, had other ideas about the ownership of the items, and she sued her mother-in-law.
A properly constructed estate plan could have protected Lucille’s interests from the start.
Painter Thomas Kinkade
Thomas Kinkade was an extremely successful painter that passed away in 2012 at the age of 54. The cause of death was acute intoxication from alcohol and diazepam. He had been estranged from his wife, Nanette, for a couple of years at the time of his death. There was an estate plan that was created when they were together.
Kinkade had a girlfriend named Amy Pinto-Walsh. She produced two holographic or handwritten wills that were executed after the original estate plan. It left her a considerable inheritance. Nanette challenged the validity of the documents, and handwriting experts were engaged.
The documents and his signature were hardly legible. This is a professional painter that was very precise with visual depictions. There is no way of proving his condition when he drew up the documents, but it is logical to assume that he was intoxicated.
This matter was being litigated, but the two women eventually came to an out-of-court settlement. If Kinkade would have gone to an attorney to make sure that Pinto-Walsh was provided for in accordance with his wishes, the acrimony would have been avoided.
Doors Singer Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison of the Doors was a hard living rocker who passed away when he was 27 years of age. He did have an estate plan in place, but there is something to learn from the way that he went about it.
His will left everything to his common-law wife, Pamela Courson, if she lived for at least three months after his passing. In the will, he stated that he wanted his siblings to inherit his assets if she did not survive the three months.
As it turned out, she did live long enough to inherit the assets. There were disputes during probate that held up the distribution, but the court ultimately found in her favor in 1974. Unfortunately, shortly after the ruling, she passed away.
She did not have a will, so her parents were the sole inheritors under intestate succession laws. Morrison’s parents initiated legal actions, and ultimately, the two parties came to a settlement.
Morrison famously despised his parents, and he stated that he wanted his siblings to inherit his estate if Pamela was not around. However, because he did not facilitate this outcome in a legally binding manner, his wishes were not honored.
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