Estate planning is a dry and dull subject. However, the family dynamics and transactions of celebrities bring issues involving estate planning before society as a whole. The deaths of Michael Jackson, Catherine Hepburn, singer Don Ho and the problems involved in their estates have been in the news in the past few years. The problems encountered by these celebrities are good examples of what the do’s and don’ts of estate planning are.
All Estate Planning Should Be In Writing!
Don Ho made various promises to his estranged first wife on her death bed. He told her he would let her six children inherit the family’s beach front home in Hawaii. This eight bedroom luxury home had been in the family for decades. Unfortunately for his ex-wife and her children, this was an unenforceable verbal promise. The house was subsequently listed for sale. While the home was on the market, he died of heart failure.
The home, which was owned by a trust, was listed at 6.8 million dollars and eventually sold for approximately 6 million dollars. Thereafter, the six adult children of the first wife were evicted from the house. There has been a lot of litigation and many estate lawyers have made significant legal fees related to Don Ho’s estate. As of this date, the six adult children of Don Ho’s late wife have not received one penny.
Creating A Trust Is Only a First Step; the Trust Needs to Be Funded
Michael Jackson had created a family trust during his lifetime. He took this action as part of a sophisticated estate plan. However, he did not transfer any assets into the trust. It was therefore absolutely worthless!
To put a home in a trust, a new deed must be created. This deed must transfer the title of the property from the name of the individual creating the trust into the trust. The deed thereafter must be recorded at the County Clerk’s office or the register of deeds in the county where the home is located. Michael Jackson’s estate is now involved in a probate mess that could have been avoided if his trust was funded!
Leona Helmsley left significant assets to her pet. This did not sit well with her friends and family members. They did not like the idea that Leona felt a pet was more important than them. Care should be taken in estate plans to explain exactly who is to receive your assets. If you’re disinheriting individuals, your will or trust should specifically state that they are being disinherited. Think about the consequences and problems that may be caused by your estate plan and take action to deal with these consequences.
The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo can provide you with expert legal assistance in the areas of estate planning. Our law office probates wills. We litigate contested wills and estates. We draft wills and trusts. We prepare revocable living trusts and irrevocable living trusts during our clients’ lifetimes.
We provide elder care legal advice concerning issues involving nursing home abuse, medicaid and medicaid planning techniques. We also draft special needs trusts for special needs children. Feel free to call us for a consultation.