Princess Diana – Mistake No. 1: Failing to Accurately Document Her Wishes
When Princess Diana was so tragically killed in a car accident in 1997, she was survived by her mother, siblings and two sons, William & Harry. Princess Diana passed on with a will in place, naming her sister and mother as executor. Princess Diane’s will did not specifically reference distribution of all her personal effects, such as jewelry, awards, book, collections etc. Following the execution of Princess Diana’s will, Princess Diana prepared a separate “letter of wishes” asking her executors to distribute her personal belongings worth over $100,000 to her sons and god children, at the executors discretion. This letter was found to be enforceable after the executors asked for it be overturned in court and her personal belongings were not distributed in accordance with her wishes.
Lesson to be learned: Do not leave your wishes up to the “discretion” of your executors. Put bequests in your will or trust, or in a signed and dated list.
Heath Ledger – Mistake No. 2: Failing to Update His Estate Plan
At the time of Mr. Ledger’s untimely death in 2008, Mr. Ledger was survived by his parents, sisters and young daughter. Mr. Ledger had a will in place, which left everything to his sisters and parents with no mention of his daughter. As it transpired, Mr. Ledger had his will prepared prior to the birth of his daughter. Mr. Ledger failed to relook at his estate plan upon his change in circumstance, namely the birth of his daughter. As a direct result of this failure to update his estate plan, Mr. Ledger’s fortune went to his sisters and parents. The family was divided over the proceeds of Mr. Ledger’s estate, leading to family strife. The latter could have been avoided and Mr. Ledger’s daughter’s inheritance could have been guaranteed, had Mr. Ledger updated his will following the birth of his daughter.
Lesson to be learned: update your estate plan upon any change in circumstance.
Jimi Hendrix: Mistake No. 3: Failing to Have An Estate Plan
The infamous Jimi Hendrix dies at age 27 without a will in place. Arguably given his young age, like a lot of young people, Mr. Hendrix may have assumed that he was too young to have an estate plan. As a result of Mr. Hendrix’s failure to establish an estate plan, upon his passing his great fortune was distributed via the intestacy laws in the state in which he was resident. The latter ensured that his father received everything from his estate and his brother Leon, received nothing. Mr. Hendrix’s father went to make further millions from Jimi Hendrix’ s legacy and intentionally failed to provide for Leon in his own estate plan, favoring his adopted daughter from a subsequent relationship. It is arguable that Jimi Hendrix would have liked his only brother, with whom he was close, to be provided for upon his passing.
Lesson to be learned: It is never too early to establish an estate plan.