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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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Robin Williams' Wife Dishonors His Trust Through Court Battle

When Robin Williams tragically committed suicide six months ago, he left behind three children from his first two marriages (ages 23 to 31) and a widow of less than three years, Susan Schneider Williams. Unlike many celebrities, Robin Williams took the time to create thoughtful and detailed estate plan, including various trusts to benefit both Susan and his three children. The trust established for his wife, called the Susan Trust, referred to and was consistent with a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 2011 when they were married.  Robin-and-Susan-Williams

Because Robin Williams' estate plan was carefully crafted, it initially appeared that his heirs would avoid the bitter family squabbles that affect many mixed-marriage families (in Hollywood and around the country). After all, it is his wishes that matter, and because those wishes were seemingly captured through the proper estate planning documents, there should be nothing left to fight about, right?

Not so fast. Within the past 24 hours, the news broke that the Williams family will not be so lucky. Susan, through her lawyers, started legal proceedings just a few days before Christmas. She asked a probate court in California to take jurisdiction over the Robin Williams Trust to interpret various provisions that she feels are in dispute. Robin's three children -- themselves coming from two different marriages -- filed a unified response through their attorneys and opposed Susan's court filing. The battle is on.

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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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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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Dispute Over Where To Bury Casey Kasem Teaches Lesson

The famed American Top 40 Countdown DJ passed away in June, at age 82, with a host of medical problems including advanced Lewy Body dementia.  Now, almost four months later, Casey Kasem’s remains still have not been laid to rest.  Casey and Jean Kasem

It’s a tragic story of a feuding family.  And unfortunately, it’s one that won’t likely end any time soon.

Kasem’s wife of more than 30 years, Jean Kasem, wasn’t exactly close with his three adult children from his first marriage.  In fact, Casey’s daughter Kerri Kasem recently said in an interview with Howard Stern that Jean Kasem didn’t like her or her siblings since the time that Kerri was just nine years old.   According to Kerri, Jean would even invent bad deeds that she told Casey the children had done so he would be mad at them.

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