Many people in Texas might not have estate plans, but it can also be dangerous to have a poorly prepared estate plan. A number of celebrities have made estate-planning errors, and people who are not celebrities can learn from those errors.
Most people will not need to worry about estate taxes, but actor James Gandolfini did, and because he left only a small part of his estate to his wife, most of the total estate went to pay taxes. Ambiguous language in the documents of singer James Brown led to years of litigation by his girlfriend and her children. Singer Michael Jackson made the common error of creating a trust but failing to fund it while billionaire Howard Hughes did not create a will at all, leading to his wealth being divided between more than 20 cousins. Hughes had wanted his fortune dedicated to medical research. Singers Prince and Aretha Franklin also died without an estate plan.
Tobacco heiress Doris Duke had an estate worth $1.2 billion at her death, and she put her butler in charge of the foundation she created for it, leading to years of litigation alleging mismanagement. Radio personality Casey Kasem’s current wife and children from a former marriage fought over his health care and his body.
Working with an attorney can help an individual ensure that the estate plan is clear and has all the necessary documents. Individuals may want to talk to family members about the plan as well. In fact, in addition to a will, a trust and other estate planning documents, they can include a letter describing their wishes for family members and their assets. There are also important elements to estate planning that are not just about assets. For example, a will can appoint a guardian for minor children.