While most Americans are aware that they need to create an estate plan, many have not yet done so. Also, many Americans who do have estate plans have not updated them recently, and they may not accurately reflect the present wishes of the people who created them.
Not having an estate plan or not keeping your estate plan up to date can have consequences that are far from what you would wish your family to have as your legacy. History provides many examples of people who either did not make an estate plan, did not update their estate plan, or made a mistake in their estate plan.
Sonny Bono is one of several American celebrities who have died intestate, without ever having made a will. After his death, his widow, his ex-wife, and someone who claimed to be his child battled over his estate. The person who alleged that Sonny was their father was proven a fraud through the use of DNA evidence. After all was said and done, Sonny’s estate was divided between Mary Bono, who was Sonny’s wife when he died, and his two children, Chastity (now Chaz) and Christy.
Joe Robbie, a former owner of the Miami Dolphins, had an estate plan that was poorly drafted and did not function as it was intended to. He had set up a pour-over will and a revocable intervivos trust with the intention that those instruments would delay the payment of estate tax on his estate until after his wife’s death. The reason for the failure is that his wife demanded her elective share of his estate after he died. His estate was not liquid, and the enormous estate tax burden could only be paid by selling the team. Additionally, Robbie had eleven children, and all of them fought with each other over what remained of their father’s estate after the estate tax was paid, and the team and stadium Joe Robbie spent his life building were sold.
Barry White died before his divorce was final. His wife, from whom he was separated for years before his death, received his entire estate. His long-term girlfriend received nothing, and neither did any of his nine children. Unmarried partners and children of unmarried parents often get dealt a devastating blow when their partner or parent dies without a will. For example, Philip Seymour Hoffman was not married to his girlfriend when he died, and he had not updated his will after his last two children were born. He left his entire estate to his girlfriend in his will so that she would be able to provide for herself and their children, but the tax on his estate is approximately a third of its total value. Had Philip and his girlfriend been married, his family would not have lost any of his estate to estate tax.
If reading about the aforementioned estate planning mishaps has motivated you to create or review your estate plan, Wichita estate planning attorney J. Joseph Weber is here to assist you. Call us to make your appointment today at 316-265-7802, or contact us online.