Readers of this blog know that one of the big drawbacks to relying on a will (instead of a trust) is that wills must pass through probate court and are public documents. They can be read by anyone.
The New York Post recently published an article about the final wishes of the late, great broadcaster Walter Cronkite who died on July 17, 2009 at age 92. You can read it here.
Cronkite left most of assets (believed to be worth millions) to his children and aides from CBS. His August, 2005 will excluded his girlfriend, Joanna Simon (sister of singer Carly Simon). Reportedly, he was very generous to Simon during life, but didn't want to name her in his will out of respect for his wife of nearly 65 years, who passed in 2005.
The best thing about probate court -- with its publicity, added expense, and breeding ground for family feuds -- is that it can be avoided. Cronkite is not alone in subjecting his family to probate court when he easily could have bypassed it with a properly funded revocable living trust.
While his family hopefully won't have to make multiple trips to court, like Michael Jackson's family is forced to do, he had more than enough money to avoid this common estate planning mistake. In fact, revocable living trusts make sense for most people -- millionaires or not.
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+