When Luke Perry, whose full name was Coy Luther Perry III, died on March 4, 2019, he was surrounded by family and loved ones. Tragically, the actor — who rose to fame playing a teenage heart-throb on Beverly Hills 90210 — died from a condition that almost everyone thinks of as one that only strikes “old” people. Fortunately, Perry’s foresight to do the proper estate planning meant that the tragedy was not made worse for his family.
Luke Perry Suffers Stroke
At the young age of 52, Perry suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalized under heavy sedation. Five days later, his family made the decision to remove life support, after it was apparent that he would not recover, following a reported second stroke. He was surrounded by his children, 21-year-old Jack and 18-year-old Sophie, along with his fiancé, ex-wife, mother, and siblings, among others.
Unless you’re under the age of 35 or a fan of electronic dance music, you may have never heard of the Swedish musician, super DJ, and music producer, Avicii, although you likely heard his most popular song, “Wake Me Up,” playing at one point or another.
Avicii, whose real name was Tim Bergling, reached almost absurd levels of fame, success, wealth and adoration. Sadly, his success came a heavy cost of anxiety, depression, heavy alcoholism, and ultimately suicide. He was only 28 when he died from self-inflicted wounds from broken glass on April 20, 2018.
The Grammy-nominated artist enjoyed great financial success, regularly earning tens of millions of dollars per year and landing on many of Forbes highest earning lists, especially during his peak from 2014 through 2016. Celebrity Net Worth reported his net worth when he died to be around $50 million. His Hollywood Hills mansion sold for $17.5 million earlier this year. He signed lucrative endorsement deals with Volvo and Ralph Lauren.
Yet Avicii was never motivated by money. He said during an interview in 2013, “I discovered when I started making money that I didn’t really need it.” Instead, he turned towards charitable goals, saying, “When you have such an excess of money you don’t need, the most sensible, most human and completely obvious thing is to give to people in need.”
These weren’t just words to the famous DJ. In 2012, he embarked on a tour called “House for Hunger” and donated all of his income from the tour to the charity, Feeding America, to combat hunger. He added another $1 million afterwards, along with an additional one million euros to a Swedish “hunger aid” charity a year later. And these were just some of the publicly-reported gifts.
After years of battling pancreatic cancer, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died surrounded by family and friends on August 16, 2018. Despite the shocking reality that she died without a will or a trust, her family has banded together to quickly protect her estate. But there are unavoidable problems on the horizon because Aretha did not do the proper estate planning.
As the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday, Aretha Franklin died without a will or a trust. Her longtime entertainment attorney in Los Angeles, Don Wilson, told the Free Press that he “was after her for a number of years to do a trust.” Our review of the recent probate court filing confirms that Aretha died “intestate”, or without a will.
On August 21, 2018, one of Aretha’s four sons, Kecalf Franklin, along with a Detroit-area attorney who worked with Aretha for more than 40 years, filed the paperwork with the Oakland County Probate Court. While Aretha was a lifelong resident of Detroit, her death certificate lists Bloomfield Hills, a northern suburb, as her domicile. So her probate will be handled through Oakland County, not Wayne County, where Detroit is located.
Would comedian Richard Pryor be laughing or rolling over in his grave? When Quincy Jones sat down for a recent interview with Vulture, he casually inferred that Marlon Brando slept with both Marvin Gaye and Richard Pryor.
The comment quickly snowballed when Pryor's widow, Jennifer Lee-Pryor, took to social media to confirm the Richard Pryor tryst with Marlon Brando:
Hey girl: It was the 70's: enough cocaine and good music-one could f*** a radiator and send it flowers in the morning! # noshame https://t.co/Aea0lLDAhG
She commented that Pryor would have no shame about Quincy's comments and was open in his early comedy routines about his homosexual encounters. Jennifer felt that Pryor would have enjoyed Quincy Jones' revelation.
Almost two months after his death, Charles Manson's body remains in limbo as an unusual legal battle heats up over control of — and the potential to profit from — his estate.
This of course raises questions. Why would anyone bother to fight over the estate of a man who spent almost five decades in prison? Even if he was one of the most infamous serial killers of all time, what could there be worth fighting over?
And if there is money to be had, how could someone claim profits generated by a man who became famous for committing profound acts of evil, and still sleep comfortably at night?
Those questions don't seem to be slowing down three combatants vying for control of the Charles Manson estate and legacy. An avid collector of Manson memorabilia, named Michael Channels, became pen pals with Manson after sending him about 50 letters, leading to a meeting in prison in 2002. Manson then wrote and signed a purported will, naming Channels as his executor, authorizing his body to be released to Channels, and bequeathing all of this property to Channels.
This 2002 will specifically directed that Channels was to receive all of Manson's music and royalty rights to the songs Manson wrote, as well as his image and publishing rights. That same will specifically disinherited anyone claiming to be a child of Charles Manson and all other relatives.
When British pop star George Michael, 53, whose full name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, died on Christmas Day, 2016, he was discovered by his lover, Fadi Fawaz. Tensions have been building between Fawaz and Michael's surviving family members, which include his two sisters and his father, ever since that day.
According to reports from England, Michael's family members want nothing to do with Fawaz, to the point that he is not even welcome at the funeral. After months of delays before Michael's body was released, during which time it was determined he died of natural causes related to a heart condition, Michael's sisters are planning a small, private ceremony at a 30-seat chapel.
Fawaz has complained that the family left him out of funeral plans and felt that he was being blamed for George Michael's death, until the final determination of how he died was made public. George Michael's cousin said it was Fawaz who snubbed the family, not the other way around. Reportedly, Fawaz was paid more than £10,000 a month to be with Michael.
The real battle will be over George Michael's London townhouse, estimated to be worth £5 million. Fawaz has been residing in the house ever since Michael died, even though Fawaz reportedly is not named as a beneficiary in Michael's will. The family is said to be contemplating legal action to remove Fawaz from the home, which Fawaz claims he should be allowed to use.
Specifically, Fawaz believes that he had an agreement with George Michael to use the property for the foreseeable future. This apparently was based on a conversation, not a written agreement.
If that is the case, then Fawaz would not have a legal leg to stand on. In England, as in the U.S., agreements involving real estate must be in writing to be valid. So if George Michael did agree that Fawaz could stay in the home -- either as part of a business arrangement or due to the personal relationship -- that would not be binding on the Estate without a written statement that spelled out the terms.
But this doesn't mean that Fawaz will go away quietly. Because he has been living in the home, and has a claim that he is entitled to stay, the family would have to initiate legal proceedings to evict him. Once in court, Fawaz would certainly argue that the verbal agreement gives him the right to occupy it. And there is no telling what else Fadi Fawaz may say to complicate the matter. That legal proceeding could turn ugly and embarrassing for Michael's family.
While the specifics of George Michael's estate plan have not yet been made public, he reportedly divided his estate -- estimated to be worth in the neighborhood of £105 million (or roughly $130 million) -- primarily between his two sisters, through a will. If that is the case, then George Michael's last will must be publicly filed and processed through probate court, which will allow it to be easily obtainable by members of the British media or anyone else. (When wills are probated, they become public documents for anyone to read.)
So far George Michael's will has not been filed for probate because the family has focused on the funeral, which was delayed by the investigation into his cause of death. Once it's filed, we'll know for certain who is to receive what and what assets Michael had. We'll also find out if Michael wanted Fawaz to receive anything, including the right to stay in the London home.
George Michael's estate highlights why it is much better to rely on a living trust rather than a will. Living trusts, when properly drafted and funded during one's lifetime, can help families avoid probate court. They can also spell out specifically who receives what, when and how, without the necessity of probate court, where disputes are more common.
For example, if Michael did want Fawaz to be able to occupy the London home for a time after he died, that could have been spelled out in a private trust document, free from media scrutiny.
It's not only celebrities who benefit from detailed and thorough estate planning, including living trusts. Anyone who wants to protect their heirs from the increased expense, hassle, and public nature of probate court should talk to an estate planning attorney about whether a living trust makes sense for them.
So much trouble caused by such a simple concept. When you create a will, you decide who receives your assets after you die. If you don’t, the laws of the state you live in determine it. What happens when those laws aren’t too clear? Chaos. And the Prince estate is experiencing it in full force.
Maybe it’s fitting for the estate of the man who sang, “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Prince’s estate — reported to be worth as much as $300 million dollars before taxes — is tied up in the early stages of a long battle over who really are his heirs. Still? Didn’t the judge already resolve that months ago?
Originally, it appeared so. Dozens of people came forward claiming to be Prince’s son, daughter, or other relative. The DNA did not support them, and the judge denied their claims. He determined that Prince’s full sister and five half-siblings all qualified as heirs. He ordered the other two, a reported niece and grand-niece, to undergo DNA testing as well.