Sometimes unintended consequences result when you fail to plan your estate effectively. This is why it is important to retain the services of a qualified estate planning attorney.
When speaking to an attorney, it’s important to be forthright. You may be tempted to leave certain details out of the conversation if you find them uncomfortable to discuss or if you think they’re irrelevant, but you may be surprised at what kinds of information are important to successfully planning your estate.
Stranger Inherits Estate
How would you feel if a stranger wound up making tens of millions of dollars from the sales of your likeness? It sounds absurd, but it’s exactly what happened with Marilyn Monroe’s estate.
Marilyn Monroe left most of her estate to a man named Lee Strasberg, who was her acting teacher. While Marilyn was alive, she was close with both Lee and his then-wife Paula. Lee was older than Paula, and women usually outlive men. You might figure that Marilyn didn’t mind the thought of Paula, who was her close friend and mentor, winding up with her assets after Lee died. But things didn’t work out that way. In fact, Lee outlived Paula and later married another woman named Anna.
In the end, Anna wound up in possession of Marilyn’s estate after Lee’s death. She made millions of dollars licensing Marilyn’s image.
Reportedly she sold the rights for some $25 million.
Jim Morrison’s Wishes Dashed
Jim Morrison did not have a relationship with his parents. His last will stated that everything in his estate would be left to his common-law wife Pamela Courson, provided a certain requirement was met: Courson had to live for at least three months after Morrison’s death. Otherwise, the estate would pass on to Morrison’s siblings.
However, when Courson did die, her parents became the legal owners of the assets of the Morrison estate, left to Pamela because she didn’t have her own last will stipulating otherwise, and they were her closest living relatives.
They eventually struck a deal with the Morrison’s parents, and the two couples shared ownership of the Morrison estate.
Don’t Wait for Things to Get Complicated
You may not be a celebrity nor heir to a celebrity’s estate. But there are lessons to be learned from the mistakes made by the rich and famous that apply to us all.
The stories told above both show the importance of clear communication and thorough planning, as well as the risk one takes in assuming his / her plan is infallible. Consulting a qualified and experience estate planning attorney is the only way to be sure that you or your loved ones won’t face any nasty surprises after you are gone.
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