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From Sinatra to Prince: how stars left their estates in disarray

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2017 | Estate Planning |

Prince, Frank Sinatra Jr., José Fernández, Tom Clancy. In addition to being globally famous at the time of their deaths, the four stars have something else in common: each left their multi-million dollar estates in chaos.

Now, heirs-and judges-are sorting through the mess to try and figure out who is entitled to what, and how the late millionaires’ wishes can be respected. What mistakes did these four stars commit when they planned their estates? And how could their mistakes be avoided?

An avoidable headache

Despite the fact that these four individuals were multi-millionaires with massive estates, they failed to follow some relatively simple steps that could have saved their heirs a headache and could have better organized the handling of their matters after passing, according to an article in Private Wealth.

The first and most important rule in protecting your estate is to always have a will and estate plan in place. Though Prince was notoriously protective of his music, he didn’t have a will in place. As a result, heirs from around the country are making their claim on his estate.

The second rule? Find good attorneys and trust what they say.

Frank Sinatra Jr. divorced his spouse but they continued to live together, giving her the impression that she was a common law wife and thus entitled to an inheritance upon his death. The two were engaged in litigation on the subject prior to his death in March. Attorneys are claiming that Sinatra Jr. could have avoided the trouble had he consulted with and listened to his counsel.

Rule three: make provisions for the important people in your life.

Florida Marlins pitching sensation José Fernández was unmarried at the time of his death at 24 in a boating accident. However, his girlfriend at the time was pregnant with their first child. Attorneys are saying that Fernández should have prepared a document to take care of his child and girlfriend. Now, a protracted legal battle could await the new mother.

The fourth and final rule? Be careful with the language in your estate plan, and take steps to ensure that it’s not ambiguous.

Tom Clancy, who left behind an $80 million estate when he passed, left behind very specific instructions on how it should be distributed and who should bear the tax burden among his second wife and two sets of children. However, shortly before his death, he signed an ambiguous codicil to his will, which led the courts to redistribute the tax burden among his children.

While most individuals aren’t under pressure to figure out how to distribute their multi-million dollar estates, these rules could help everybody figure out how to start planning for the future.

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