The United Kingdom's Daily Mail newspaper reported that it has learned the contents of Farrah Fawcett's will and at least the basic provisions of her trust. Fawcett died tragically on June 25th; she was 62 years old. Her battle with cancer was well-documented.
Quoting an anonymous "source", the paper states that Fawcett left most of her money in trust for her 24-year-old son, Redmond, who is in jail for drug-related charges. She also left a bequest to her alma mater, Texas University.
Normally trusts are private documents that keep details like these out of the public eye. Wills are public records and can be read by anyone, because all wills have to pass through probate court. The Daily Mail states that Fawcett's will is to be released in the next couple of weeks. It also reports that her estate is worth 5.5 million dollars.
With so many celebrities demonstrating how not to do good estate planning (such as Steve McNair who died without a will, and Michael Jackson who had a trust but did not fund it properly), Fawcett's reported 2007 will and trust show a good example of how to plan the right way.
The quoted inside source said:
Farrah appointed two trustees to make sure the money supports her son’s journey into sobriety rather than giving him the means to destroy himself. Redmond’s inheritance will be tightly controlled.
Read the full Daily Mail story here.
This is exactly what people should use trusts to accomplish. They help you pass on your money, not only to those you want to receive, but also in the precise way you want them to have it. You can help protect people -- like Farrah's son Redmond -- from themselves. You can tie conditions to the money and make sure it is spent in the best way possible. Unlike a will, a trust can continue to function over a long period of time, allowing you to control your property well after you're gone.
It is your legacy you're leaving behind -- follow Fawcett's example and do it on your terms. You don't need to hand a check to your loved ones who may do more harm than good from it.
But, the only way to make certain your wishes are followed in the best way possible, it is very important to set up your trust with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Never try to do it yourself with a "do-it-yourself" kit or a down-loadable form from the internet. A good lawyer will help you structure your trust to make sure your heirs don't run into trouble.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at awmayoras @ brmmlaw.com.Follow us on Google+