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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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Using Celebrity Stories Is A Great Way To Bring Up Estate Planning

MarketWatch.com recently featured an interesting article about the benefits that families gain by having the estate planning conversation early.  Not only does it improve family relationships, it helps sets the stage and prepares family members for facing the difficult issues caused by a loved one who ages or passes away.    Trial and Heirs cover 2nd-edition

The article noted how a UBS Wealth Management study recently found that only 43% of affluent Americans felt that having this conversation with their heirs was a pressing issue.  That’s surprising because experts predict that between now and the year 2050, the largest wealth transfer in U.S. history will occur:  a whopping 30 trillion dollars.

The problem is that having this conversation is seldom easy.  Who wants to sit around talking about legal and financial planning for when someone dies or becomes incapacitated?  Most family members are too busy with the stress of their daily work and personal routines to worry about talking to loved ones about death and dying.

While the MarketWatch article includes a couple suggestions, there is one more that we are huge proponents of:  using celebrity stories.  Instead of awkwardly beginning the conversation by asking your loved ones to consider what will happen when you pass away, why not bring up Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Princess Diana, or even Elvis?  These are all celebrities we have recently written about here at Trial & Heirs.

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Celebrity Legacies: Yoko and Julian Battled Over John Lennon's Estate

When John Lennon of the Beatles was tragically murdered in 1980, his controversial widow, Yoko Ono, took charge of his legacy and his fortune ... but where did that leave his two sons? As arguably the most successful songwriter of all time, what did Lennon leave behind?   John Lennon and Yoko Ono

And what did the King of Pop have to do with John Lennon's legacy?

This is installment #5 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.

He famously sang "All You Need Is Love."  When it came to leaving money for his first-born son, John Lennon must have had that song in mind, because he apparently didn't believe that Julian needed money.  In fact, according to Lennon's first wife, Julian's mother Cynthia, the man known as the "cool" Beatle was a cruel negotiator during their divorce. Cynthia says he refused to give more than 75,000 pounds for her and Julian, supposedly telling her she wasn't worth any more.

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Celebrity Legacies: Whitney Houston No Stranger To Estate Trouble

Whitney Houston's fortune bounced from sky-high to significant debt.  What did this mean for her estate?  And was it money — or something else — behind Whitney’s ugly legal battle with her “step-mother”?  Whitney_Houston_performing_on_GMA-300x231

How exactly does Bobby Brown fit into all of this?

This is installment #4 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.

Before Whitney Houston unexpectedly drowned in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub at age 48, on February 11, 2012, rumors circulated that she was in such financial trouble that she was nearly broke.  She reportedly died $20 million in debt.

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Celebrity Legacies: The Anna Nicole Smith Estate Battle

So how long exactly does it take to resolve the dispute over the estate of an 89-year old Texas oil tycoon who married a 26-year old stripper and Playboy Playmate?  Shouldn't the case end when both the stripper (Anna Nicole Smith) and her "step-son" (Pierce Marshall, who was 27 years older than she was) die?  Anna_Nicole_Smith

And is this really important enough to be heard by the United States Supreme Court, not once, but twice?

This is installment #3 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.

While we monitor, write about, and provide commentary for media outlets around the country about many complicated celebrity estates, this one takes the prize.  We call it "The Grand-Daddy Of All Estate Battles."  We've written several articles about this case so far, which you can read here.

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Will Robin Williams' Estate Be Broke?

The initial shock of Robin Williams’ tragic death, apparently from hanging himself, is giving way to reflections of his memory and legacy. Another question many people are asking is what happens next for his family and his estate. He was survived by his third wife, Susan Schneider, to whom he was married for three years, and three adult children from his prior two marriages, whose ages range from 22 to 31. There is a realistic fear that Williams’ death left may have left them in financial distress.   Robin Williams

In an interview with Parade Magazine in 2013, Williams lamented how he was required to change his lifestyle because of how much he lost in his two divorces (reportedly, $30 million). He said he returned to TV because of “bills to pay.” Williams also admitted to listing his Napa Valley estate for sale because he could no longer afford it.

Robin Williams‘ publicist recently said that he was not in financial trouble and his comments were not to be taken seriously. Regardless of whether his publicist is trying to protect his image, or if Williams was being truthful in the interview, Robin Williams family members will be far from destitute.

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Jim Morrison's Estate And Legacy Marred By Probate Fights

Who opened the door to battles over the Jim Morrison Estate?  Who won ... and what did they win when the dust settled?  And does drinking your loved one's blood constitute a valid marriage ceremony?Jim_Morrison

This is installment #2 of our weekly 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.  

Legendary Doors singer Jim Morrison died young at just 27 years of age, in 1971, from a heroin overdose. While his estate had limited cash when Morrison died, the assets in his estate became worth around $80 million.

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