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Million Dollar Mistakes of the Rich and Famous: Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan – Part 1

By: Matthew H. Fry, Esquire

Not all of us have become the rich and famous, but we can learn from their mistakes  the importance of having a proper estate plan in place.  An inexpensive estate plan can include not only a will, but also a living will, a power of attorney, and trusts.  As the following examples show, the failure to plan for the future could drain your assets and hurt your family.  These celebrities who passed on without a proper estate plan provide  prime examples of what not to do to your loved ones and heirs:

Prince died without a Will Prince, who recently died at the age of 57, had no will or other estate plan.  As a result, an estate battle has begun, and a Minnesota court has to decide how to split up his $300 million estate among his six siblings, and one federal inmate, who now claims he is Prince’s son!  Not only will this cost be taken out of the heirs’ inheritance, it could also considerably delay the distribution of the money.  A basic will would have prevented much of the costs and delay.

James Galdolfini died with only a Will and not a complete estate plan.  While Galdolfini’s will provided for the distribution of his assets, he failed to complete his estate planning and protect his heirs with proper tax planning.  As a result, Gandolfini’s $70 million estate was hit with estate taxes of 55%!

Philip Seymour Hoffman died without creating trusts for his children.  Before Hoffman died in 2014, he felt adamant about not having his children become spoiled “trust fund kids”, so he did not create any trusts for the benefit of his children.  Upon his death, his entire estate worth $35 million went to the mother of his three children, which caused an excessive estate tax bill that could have been avoided had trusts been set up for his children.  What Hoffman apparently failed to realize is that trusts can be specifically tailored with stipulations and provisions to prevent children from collecting their inheritance without meeting certain obligations, and to help prevent them from becoming “spoiled.”  Instead, much of his inheritance went to pay his estate tax bill.

Florence Griffith Joyner dies with a Will, but had kept its location secret.  When she died in 1998, her family could not find her will, and a completely unnecessary four year battle among her relatives ensued to settle her estate.  Typically, the attorney that drafts the will keeps an original in his or her possession to prevent such a situation.  In any event, close family members should know where your important papers are, including your will and the rest of your estate plan, should anything happen to you.

These are just a few examples of what can happen if you do not receive proper legal advice to create and maintain a proper estate plan that is specifically tailored to your needs.  You should not wait until you are rich and famous to have an estate plan.  Even if you are not a millionaire, you can enjoy peace of mind that your family members and other heirs will avoid the headaches and costs associated with your failing to have a proper estate plan.

If you need an estate plan, or need to update your current estate plan, the attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP can help. Please contact Matthew Fry at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP at 610-565-5700 or email me at mfry@dioriosereni.com.

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The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP, is located in Media, PA and serves clients in and around Media, Glen Riddle Lima, Brookhaven, Wallingford, Newtown Square, Lenni, Springfield, Swarthmore, Chester, Aston, Bryn Mawr, Morton, Woodlyn, Broomall, Gradyville, Folsom, Chester Heights, Crum Lynne, Glen Mills, Marcus Hook, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Marple, Bethel, Garnet Valley, Chadds Ford Concord, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County.


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