In the spirit of Halloween, and all that is frightening, let us take a look at some of infamous celebrity horror stories that have resulted from a lack of proper estate planning.

What better way to start this topic off than with a story of Jerry Garcia, leader of the band the Grateful Dead. Although Garcia had a Last Will & Testament in place, it’s provisions were ambiguous, leading to a series of challenges that were probably not resolved according to his intent. Furthermore, Garcia had named his third wife as both an executor of his estate and as a beneficiary, yet she was to look out for the interest of his second wife, and four of his children that he had with other women. This resulted in the second ex-wife suing the estate, and ultimately receiving only $1.5 million of the $5 million Garcia promised her. It is important to clearly express your intent in all of your estate planning documents. Furthermore, you do not want to name an executor of your estate who has any conflicting interest with other beneficiaries.

While the Elvis Presley costumes are running rampant during this Halloween season, let them be a reminder that a Last Will & Testament is not sufficient in itself for a complete estate plan. The King of Rock n’ Roll left a $10 million estate to his heirs, who ended up only receiving about 10% of it. The fees associated with probate alone cost his estate nearly $2 million. If Presley would have set up a pour-over will, that filtered all of his assets into a trust, he would have been able to avoid probate.

We are all familiar with the story of Anna Nicole Smith, the stunning hot-mess that married 89-year-old businessman, J. Howard Marshall. Marshall had executed his will just days before marrying Anna Nicole, and passed away the following year. The provisions of the will named only one beneficiary, and it wasn’t Anna Nicole. She challenged the will, but after a series of appeals, never received a dime (just this year, the court awarded sanctions to Smith’s daughter). When Anna Nicole died from an overdose (six months after her first son died and second child was born), she left behind a will that excluded her newborn daughter & left everything to her deceased son. Furthermore, the will stated that it would not include after born children. There are quite a few take-aways from this love-story: (1) if you do not want your spouse/child/etc. to be a beneficiary, you should specifically exclude them in your will (rather than merely failing to make any provisions for them); (2) if you have children from a previous marriage, you need to be very cautious in drafting an estate plan to ensure that they will be provided for; (3) if you experience any changes in your family relationships, you need to review and potentially change your estate plan immediately.

This Halloween, remember these techniques to avoid your own estate planning horror story! For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?SM