What do celebrity Wills mean for us?
Many people are fascinated with celebrities and how they live their lives. But a number of recent stories about Celebrity Wills, or the lack of them, highlight what effect they had on their loved ones.
Whether you are famous or not, the consequences of not adequately planning can have a huge negative impact on your family. Here we look at a few of the more famous cases to have hit the headlines over the past few years.
When the Queen of Soul died in 2018, she was initially thought not to leave a Will. That meant her estate, and future artist’s royalties, would be split equally between her four sons, based on the provisions in Michigan law. And although there would be some slight delays, the estate could be settled relatively quickly.
However, the family found 2 handwritten wills locked away in her home, and another later one in a notebook left on the couch! They contained many ambiguous statements and appointments, and less provision for her eldest son. They are now having to be reviewed in court to determine what her final wishes really were.
5 years after her death, her estate still isn’t resolved. You can read more about it in this article.
When Caroline tragically took her life earlier this year she hadn’t left a Will. This meant that, based on UK inheritance laws, her estate would be passed to her parents. It also meant that they would have to apply to administrate her estate as she hadn’t appointed an executor.
Probate records show the details of her estate which was worth £2 million. However, as no advance planning had taken place, this will have been subject to inheritance taxes – often known as death duties. After debts and taxes, there was £827,000 left to distribute. Her parents announced that much of this will be passed to a number of charitable causes that Caroline was passionate about.
When Prince died in 2016, at the age of 57, he left no Will at all and an estate estimated to be worth more than $200m. Over 45 people came forward claiming to be a wife, child, sibling or other relative! As you can imagine, a lot of legal wrangling followed.
Eventually a court decided that his 6 siblings and half-siblings are the heirs to his estate, but it took many months and high legal costs to get this decision. Again, his family had to apply to the courts for the right to administer the estate and were actually overturned. Plus, a large part of Prince’s fortune will have gone in taxes and charges that could have been avoided with better planning.
In one of the most protracted battles surrounding celebrity wills, Bob Marley’s estate was still subject to dispute 30 years after his death. Even though he knew he was dying from cancer, his Rastafarian faith prevented him from creating a Will as it would have meant recognizing his own mortality.
Without a written Will, his estate would be divided between his wife and 11 children under Jamaican law.
However, his wife Rita battled for years to gain control of his name and likeness – and was successful. His intellectual property is fiercely defended even today – to the extent that family battles continue to rage between the various family members. You can read more here.
One of the most recent stories about a celebrity death is that of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. Despite knowing he had terminal cancer he did not leave a Will.
He did, however, marry his long-term partner in 2020 – giving her much better rights to act after his passing. As his wife, she replaced his parents as the person most likely to be granted the role of administrator of his $1m estate and trusts. But it isn’t an automatic right – she still had to apply to the courts for this.
Appointing her as Executor in a Will would have made this much easier for her and for others Chadwick left behind.
George died on Christmas Day 2016. After his death, his generosity and philanthropy became widely known and he gave away large chunks of his wealth to many charities.
He did, however, leave a Will, and much of his remaining fortune was left to his family. Some of his friends and colleagues were left an inheritance, but there were a few surprises about who he left out.
George had the foresight to plan ahead, making sure that his wishes were carried out as he wanted and also that his tax exposure was reduced by giving to charity in his Will.
Celebrity Wills … or Wills for the average person?
All of the above show just how important it is to make plans. We never know what is around the corner and while we may not have assets that run into millions, we all have something important to us .. a home, our children, pets, a business perhaps?.
And even if we think we don’t have a lot – remember that without a Will all we leave is a mess – for our loved ones to sort out when we are no longer here.
Make a Will and make it easier for your family.
Contact us on 01524 571032 for an initial chat about where to start. Or ask for our FREE Information Guides here