What Can Floridians Learn from Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes?

You’d think that celebrities, surrounded by lawyers and other business advisors, would have elaborate estate plans to protect their assets and families. Unfortunately, having a lot of money does not shield you from making mistakes regarding estate planning. Our Palm Harbor estate planning attorney could have helped the celebrities listed below.

These superstars made enormous mistakes while creating their wills and estate plans, despite having all the resources their money should have offered. Some of these mistakes were very costly.

Contact our Palm Harbor, Florida estate planning attorney today for guidance in creating or updating your estate plan to ensure that you avoid these and other costly mistakes.

Etta James: The Importance of Having the Necessary Advance Directives

Many people will lose their ability to make medical decisions or convey what they want from their health care at some point in their lives, mainly due to illness. Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your healthcare wishes ahead of time to continue to receive the care you want while avoiding treatments you don’t want.

Common advance directives include a:

  • Living Will
  • Health Care Surrogate
  • Pre-Need Guardianship

Legendary singer Etta James was known for such hits as “Stormy Weather,” “A Sunday Kind of Love,” and “At Last.” But unfortunately, because she did not have the necessary advance directives in place, she is also known for her son and husband being locked in a court dispute over control of the singer’s $1 million in savings.

This battle regarded her care for dementia and treatment for leukemia and whether she should receive medical treatment at home or in an assisted living facility. In James’ case, it was settled that her husband and two sons would jointly make life-ending decisions.

This costly and public legal battle illustrates the need to have the necessary advance directives before competency problems arise. Consult an experienced advance directive attorney to avoid this happening to you or a loved one.

Michael Jackson: Don’t Forget to Fund Your Living Trust

A living trust (also known as a revocable trust) is ideal for keeping your assets private, passing them on quickly to your heirs, and avoiding probate. You can keep control of your assets while you’re alive and have them distributed to your beneficiaries without probate if you use a revocable trust. If you become incapacitated, your trust will have safeguards in place.

Though entertainer Michael Jackson did many things right regarding his estate planning documents, he forgot to do one essential thing before his untimely death at 50. He did not fund his revocable trust, which had been created to protect his massive estate for the benefit of his three children and his mother.

As for Jackson’s estate, there was a battle among family members when the assets in the estate proceeded through the probate process. The estate was also put on hold due to a lack of funds. There were exceptions for living allowances for Jackson’s mother and children, but the remainder of the estate had to go through probate to establish ownership.

This costly and lengthy process could have been avoided if Jackson had funded his revocable trust.

Marlon Brando: Oral Promises Do Not Take the Place of a Written Will

If you’ve orally promised an asset you own to someone when you pass on, ensure that they receive what you promised them by documenting your wishes in a will, a trust, or another estate planning document.

We’ll never know if Marlon Brando orally promised his housekeeper a home as most of the Oscar-winning actor’s estate (worth approximately $26 million) was left to his producer and other associates, as outlined in his last will and testament. However, since he did not include his longtime housekeeper Angela Borlaza in his will, she later sued, alleging that Brando promised her a home when he died. The matter was eventually settled for $125,000.

Although you may be attempting to save money or time by orally promising inheritances to family members, friends, or others, you are not benefiting anyone. Fortunately, there is a way to legally keep your promises and wishes. Enlist the help of a will attorney and put it in writing without delay.

How an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help You Avoid These Mistakes

Your estate planning attorney will have a thorough understanding of Florida law and will be able to assist you in the creation of accurate, legally binding estate planning documents. For example, a trust that isn’t correctly designed may fail to protect assets, exposing them to probate.

Even slight inaccuracies in these documents might cause long-term problems for your heirs or add to your expenses if you have to hire an attorney to correct the situation.

Your attorney will also be able to assist you in updating your estate plan as your assets or circumstances change. We discussed the importance of this in more detail in an article you can read here.

With your attorney’s guidance, you don’t need to make the same mistakes as Etta James, Michael Jackson, or Marlon Brando.

Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A.: Compassionate, Caring Estate Planning Attorney in Palm Harbor, Florida

At the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., we are here to help you protect your family and provide you with peace of mind regarding your future. Our compassionate estate planning attorney will ensure that everything is in place regarding your estate plan, so your family won’t have to take on a legal battle if you are fighting a debilitating illness or pass away. We sweat the small stuff—so you don’t have to.

Contact the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., in Palm Harbor today at (727) 351-7057 to help you create or update your estate plan. You can also fill out our contact form.

Copyright © 2022. Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.


Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A.
522 Alt 19 #1
Palm Harbor, FL 34683
(727) 351-7057

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