Widely recognized as one of the best and most popular actresses of all times, Elizabeth Taylor’s death this week at the age of 79 caused great sadness throughout Hollywood — and indeed the whole world. Given her success, both on the screen and off, perhaps it should be no surprise that Elizabeth Taylor’s fortune has just been estimated to be worth as much as one billion dollars.
Why so much? Certainly movie royalties alone could not account for that kind of value in her estate. Instead, as ABC News recently reported, her perfume and other business ventures were groundbreaking and highly profitable.
The ABC News article also included portions of an interview with both of us, in which we addressed what one would expect in terms of estate planning for a person of such great wealth and fame. But, as we explained in the interview, there are many examples of wealthy Hollywood celebrities who pass away with very poor estate planning, or no planning at all.
Michael Jackson had a trust that was all of 21 pages, and was not properly funded, causing his family and estate to expend countless time and money fighting in probate court. Other celebrities such as Sonny Bono and Jimi Hendrix, as discussed in Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, did not even have basic wills.
Proper estate planning is extra important for anyone who is in a second-marriage situation. Or, in the case of Liz Taylor, eight past marriages. She left behind four children, from three different fathers, along with ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Such a mixed family is prime breading ground for estate battles after someone dies. In fact, the National Enquirer reported a few weeks ago that her family was already fighting over the inheritance, and that was before she died.
Who knows how much stock you can put in a report from a unnamed source in a tabloid? But it certainly would not be surprising to see a battle, especially considering how much wealth there is to fight over.
That is why we hope that Liz Taylor did not make the same mistakes that so many people — celebrities and non-celebrities alike — make. In fact, here is our top-ten list of celebrity estate planning mistakes, which you can use to protect your family so your heirs do not end up suffering.
A report from Britain’s Daily Star states that Taylor did indeed have a will, which may be revealed as early as this coming week. An unnamed financial adviser is said to have informed the paper that the will divides her billion-dollar estate equally between charities and her family. The short article also refers to a “source” who says that no family fighting is expected.
If Taylor was as astute with her estate planning as she was with her business ventures, perhaps this source will be proven correct.
By Andy and Danielle Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special. The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC’s Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources. As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information.