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Celebrity Legacies: Marlon Brando's Estate Marred by Dozens of Lawsuits

Unquestionably, Marlon Brando was one of the leading actors of the 20th century.  The well-known Godfather was always in firm control ... until it came to his estate that is.  Marlon_Brando_The_Wild_One-225x300

This is installment #12 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Marlon Brando never followed convention.  He won his Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for The Godfather, but Brando rejected the award as a protest to the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.  Too bad he failed to follow the norms when it came to estate planning.

In part due to questions about his true intentions as expressed in his will and trust, Marlon Brando’s estate was involved in more than two dozens lawsuits by 2009 — five years after his death.  He passed away on July 1, 2004, at 80 years of age, suffering from a host of ailments including dementia and lung failure.

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Celebrity Legacies: Elizabeth Taylor's Estate Sets Gold Standard

Elizabeth Taylor is known for many things: her successful acting career, recognition as perhaps the ultimate icon of Hollywood glitz and glamour, standing up as a champion for AIDS research, her popular perfume, and, of course, her string of failed marriages.  Elizabeth_Taylor

Failed nuptials aside, almost everything Liz Taylor touched turned to gold.  But what about her estate? Did she prepare her estate with the same high standards as the rest of her life?

This is installment #11 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Despite early reports that Taylor's family may fight over her estate, her estate has been just the opposite:  peaceful.  No probate filing, no copies of her will or trust published on the web, and no court battles.

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Celebrity Legacies: Farrah Fawcett's Face Launches A War

When someone mentions Farrah Fawcett, most people think of her looks.  But what about her brains -- her financial savvy in particular?  The actress and model who rose to fame as one of Charlie's Angels planned well to protect her troubled son, Redmond, after she passed away.  Yet all was not angelic when it came to her financial legacy.  Farrah-Fawcett-by-Andy-Warhol1-300x300

This is installment #9 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Farrah Fawcett was far from the stereotypical blonde model when it came to finances.  She was hired to do five seasons of Charlie's Angels, by Aaron Spelling's production company.  After the first season hit it big, Fawcett re-negotiated for more money.  Relying on the fact that she never actually signed the contract, she was able to secure an increase in per-episode salary from $5,000 to $100,000.

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Celebrity Legacies: John Wayne Heirs Profit From The Duke Legacy

The popularity of the Duke has never waned. But are John Wayne's heirs going too far in profiting off of his legacy? And what does Duke University have to say about it?  John_Wayne_portrait

This is installment #8 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

With a movie career that spanned fifty years, there is no disputing that John Wayne is one of the most successful and treasured actors of all times. He was in the top ten list of actors whose films generated the highest box office gross earnings for an astonishing 25 years in a row. The Duke also holds the record for most leading movie roles of all time - 142. To this day, he remains in the top ten list in the annual Harris poll of favorite Hollywood actors and actresses. In fact, the American Film Institute ranked Wayne as number 13 on the list of top male actors of all time.

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Cory Monteith's Estate Shows How Even Young Adults Need Wills

News of Glee star Cory Monteith's death by cocaine and alcohol overdose on July 13, 2013 stunned his fans across the world.  The heartthrob actor was only 31.  He had struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager.  Cory_Monteith

Cory's mother attributed his struggles with drugs at an early age due to the lack of a relationship with his father.   In an interview with Good Morning America she said that Cory tried extra hard because he had been "invalidated" by his father.

Cory's father, Joe Monteith, denied this and blamed Cory's mother instead.  He said his job in the Canadian military forced him to be away from home for months at a time, but he tried to maintain a relationship with Cory.  In fact, he says his ex-wife prevented communication and returned Christmas gifts he sent to his son.

It's hard to determine whose side of the story is correct, but there is no dispute that Cory and his father didn’t have a close relationship.  At one point, they went eleven years without seeing each other, until Cory contacted his father about two years before he died, according to Joe's interview in People magazine.  It is interesting that it was Cory who re-established contact, not his father.

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Joan Rivers' Estate Planning Was No Laughing Matter

Joan Rivers was widely respected for her sense of humor, work ethic, and willingness to say almost anything for a laugh.  When it came to planning her estate, however, the late comedienne and host of Fashion Police treated the matter very seriously.  Joan-rivers 2

Joan Rivers' last will and testament was signed on November 16, 2011.  A thorough and well-drafted legal document, her will named a living trust as her beneficiary.

Specifically, Joan Rivers, whose full legal name was Joan R. Rosenberg, signed the Rosenberg Family Trust on the same day as the will.  The will directed that all of her estate assets were to be distributed to that trust.

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Top 10 Celebrity Stories To Spark Holiday Estate Planning Conversations

Sure the holidays are a fun time for families to sit around talking about what happened on the latest episode of The Walking Dead or how granddaughter Mary is doing in dance class.  But they are also a great time to have the important -- yet often difficult -- conversations about estate planning.  What happens when Mom dies?  Does anyone know where Dad kept his will?  Did they ever transfer the investment accounts into their revocable living trust like they were supposed to?   Walking dead

Many families don't ask these tough questions ... especially when dynamics are strained, like in many second-marriage families or when siblings don't get along well.  It certainly isn't easy to blurt out after passing the gravy, "Hey Dad, does your will put me or your wife in charge of your estate?"

But these conversations are important.  When the proper estate planning isn't done, it's the family members left behind who pay the price, often with bitter, ugly, and costly probate court battles.  They happen to families all across the country on a daily basis, from those of modest wealth to the very rich.

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