Magazine Article: Lessons of Famously Bad Estate Planning

The May 2010 issue of Insurance News Net Magazine, written for insurance and other financial professionals, has a great feature on how lessons drawn from famous estate screw-ups can help promote proper estate planning.  (Gee, that sounds familiar.)  

Co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, Danielle Mayoras, was quoted extensively in the article, and several stories and lessons from our book were featured in the story.  Here’s the beginning of the article:

Admit it: You can’t resist celebrity news. You’re standing at the grocery checkout behind someone who still uses checks, and then you notice the gossip rags. You can’t help but look and shake your head: “Tiger Woods did what? Brad wants to remarry Jennifer? Kirstie Alley is obese—again?”

Let’s face it—celebrity foibles are even more enticing than are the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups calling your name. Sex might sell, but silliness does too. And celebrity screw-ups can help sell one of the most unsexy things out there: estate planning.

Sure, people know they should have a will, but if you tell them about the many celebrity disasters that have ensued because of the absence of a will, you’re likely to grab clients’ attention.

Guitar great Jimi Hendrix died without a will in 1970, setting up a family fight that would end up in court more than 30 years later. His father, Al, had cut Jimi’s brother out of the estate and left the Hendrix legacy in control of Al’s adopted daughter, Janie, from his second marriage. And even though Al had built an $80 million business called Experience Hendrix, he reportedly still did not complete Jimi’s grave site. Odds are good that Jimi Hendrix would not have expected these turns of events, but he had no say in the matter because he did not leave a will.

Because of undefined intent, the celebrity universe is filled with questionable handling of legacies. Sometimes it is not failure but overwhelming success that generates criticism, as in the Bob Marley case. The Marley estate in 2009 signed a deal with a private-equity firm to sell merchandise worldwide to generate as much as $1 billion, prompting some to ask if that is what Bob Marley would have wanted. Forbes, for example, asked, “Could this be commercial overkill for the Rastafarian whose spiritual songs about social injustice, hope, and redemption have become anthems for billions of fans, from Marrakech to Tokyo, and will it alienate them?”

Here’s a link to the full story in the magazine.

Remember, using stories of celebrity estate battles is a great way to motivate family members and clients to do the proper planning!

By Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys. As educators across the United States through speaking engagements, print, broadcast, and social media, Danielle and Andrew consistently draw rave reviews and are in high demand. Email them at contact@trialandheirs.com.

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