Wills, Trusts & Estates: Plain and Simple – Estates of the Rich and Famous

August 17, 2020

Mishaps of celebrities in their estate planning can offer insight into what can happen when you neglect your estate planning. While interest in a band or song rights may not be a part of your family’s portfolio, business ownership, private equity investments, and other financial and non-financial assets can leave a complicated trail for loved ones to navigate. Let’s explore how celebrities have missed significant opportunities to effectively guide their estate planning process.

Jim Morrison (lead singer for the Doors) died leaving a two-page Will. While he had modest financial assets, he owned a 25% interest in the Doors. His two-page Will left everything to his girlfriend, Pamela, or if she predeceased him, to his siblings. Pamela inherited his entire estate.

Pamela died three years later without a Will, and everything passed to her parents (who intensely disliked Morrison) under state law. Morrison’s estranged parents (who would have received Morrison’s entire estate, if he had no will and was unmarried), sued to declare the Will invalid. The court found that Pamela was Morrison’s common-law wife, so would get Morrison’s entire estate anyway. Pamela’s parents and Morrison’s parents finally agreed to divide the estate’s earnings equally; but Morrison had wanted his siblings to benefit after Pamela, not their parents. Had Morrison provided for trusts in his Will, he could have left everything in trust for Pamela and, upon her death, provided for his siblings.

Reprinted with permission from Lloyd Harbor Life, August 2020. 

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  • Related Practice Areas: Trusts & Estates
  • Featured Attorneys: Patricia C. Marcin
  • Publications: Lloyd Harbor Life