Celebrity Estates: Checklist of Lessons to Learn

Celebrity Estates: Checklist of Lessons to Learn

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

Celebrity Estates: Lessons to Learn

  • Anna Nicole, Michael Jackson, James Brown, …. The sad list goes on. What lessons can be learned from the tragic, public and painful handling of their estates?
  • Neither power, nor money nor fame obviate the need for planning. Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Yet, all celebs still need estate planning.
  • Power, money and fame increase the need for planning and most importantly for protecting privacy.
    • Use revocable living trusts.
    • Use entities with generic names, not your name.
    • Plan cleanly and clearly to minimize public disclosures and disputes.
  • The basics are necessary to address no matter how rich and powerful you might be.
    • Guardianship for children.
    • Sign an emergency child medical form designating agents to handle emergency issues for minor children if you cannot.
    • Burial instructions. Address religious issues, cremation versus burial, location of burial or internment of ashes.
    • Personal wishes. What do you want done. This can be addressed in trusts as formal direction to trustees and in private letter of instructions.
    • Letter of instruction as to how children should be raised.
  • Use institutional trustees. They are professional and impartial and will carry out the instructions which are properly documented. Don’t rely on individuals that may prove not reliable.
  • In your legal documents list all known family members and their relationships as well as any wanna be persons who are not family or not included. Specifically address any groupies and other sycophants who should not inherit or be involved. Few do this and most should.
  • Designate a guardian for yourself now in case you develop competency issues. Address management of your assets and your personal wishes in a comprehensive revocable trust (not just to avoid probate), living will and health proxy.

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