Cautionary Contemporary Estate Planning Tales - Learning Our Lessons from the Rich and Famously Departed

May 1, 2007


However unpleasant it may be to contemplate and prepare for our inevitable departure, few of us intend to leave a mess for our heirs after we are gone. Nevertheless, despite many good intentions, we hear news about repetitive estate planning fiascos by celebrities and common folk alike. Anyone who has opened a newspaper or has watched television recently has observed the posthumous misfortunes of the likes of James Brown, Ted Williams, Jimi Hendrix and, most recently, Anna Nicole Smith.

In 2001, Anna Nicole Smith executed a Will leaving all of her estate to her son, Daniel, to be held in trust with her friend, Howard K. Stern, as Trustee. Tragically, Daniel died in 2006 at the age of 20. Just a few days prior to Daniel's death, Anna Nicole gave birth to a daughter, Danielynn. Shortly thereafter, Anna Nicole and Howard K. Stern had a commitment ceremony in the waters off Nassau, Bahamas.

Despite the significant changes to Anna Nicole's circumstances, she did not revise her estate plan to leave any portion of her estate to Danielynn or to her new domestic partner, Howard K. Stern. Actually, Anna Nicole included provisions in her Will preempting state laws that would have presumed that she wanted to include children born subsequent to the execution of the Will. In addition, Anna Nicole did not revise her Will to provide for a guardian of Danielynn.

Similarly, James Brown did not appropriately update his estate plan...

You may read more at the link below.

by: Todd C. Ratner, Esquire

April 2, 2007

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