Famous and Scandalous Probate Cases
Celebrity fixation is often dismissed as being a waste of time; however, there is a lot to learn from celebrities in terms of probate law. Unfortunately for the families of celebrities who pass away without proper estate planning, the probate conflicts that ensue tend to be deeply embarrassing and painful.
The following famous cases are known to be discussed and analyzed by estate planning attorneys who advise their clients as to how to avoid such probate disputes. You would be surprised how often loved ones engage in these types of fights even on a smaller scale.
Anna Nicole Smith
The Texas model and reality television star gained greater notoriety after wedding J. Howard Marshall, a rich oil tycoon who was more than 60 years her senior. When Marshall passed away, Smith found new life as a disinherited widow. The written will left out not only Smith but also one of his sons. According to Smith, Marshall had promised to leave her half of his sizable fortune, but this was not stated in the will. It seems that while Marshall may have intended to gift a portion of his estate to Smith, Marshall failed to update his will. The battle to invalidate the will played out over decades and even reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Smith did not manage to become a heiress to the Marshall estate before her tragic demise from a drug overdose. While this was a sensational case, it is important to note that these unwritten promises to give property are very commonplace. There are often everyday people who lose out when a loved one fails to plan appropriately. In our own practice, we have seen such people lose their homes as a result of the failure to plan appropriately.
When the late reggae legend, Jamaican national icon and ambassador for peace and social justice passed away in the early 1980s, he did not leave a will due to his religious beliefs. The Rastafarian faith has a different view of death, which they acknowledge as being somewhat of an illusion. Bob Marley did not leave a will because preparing for death is not something practiced in his religion; this caused turmoil among his wife and 11 children who to this day still fight over the valuable Marley estate, which includes many millions in musical royalties and intellectual property. The Marley estate was initially handled according to Jamaican intestacy law; once the artist’s widow attempted a sale of musical assets, claims against the estate multiplied and have continued to this day. Just like in the last example, Marley’s loved ones would have benefited from a proper estate plan. The pain and suffering amongst the family members could have been virtually eliminated.
When the military thriller The Hunt for Red October was made into a film, Tom Clancy’s career as an author skyrocketed to more than a dozen best-selling books as well as movies and video games. When he passed away in 2013, his estate was valued at about $80 million with a potential to increase to more than $100 million by 2020. Clancy’s estate plan seemed to be meticulous; his will created a marital trust and two family trusts for his children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, the heirs were surprised by the considerable tax burden that Clancy’s estate plan created, which made headlines when his widow filed a motion to fire the attorney who amended the trusts and served as executor. It seems the attorney did not advise his client on the importance of revising his estate plan with changing laws. This can be critical even for an estate with significantly fewer assets.
The three cases above are just a few examples of estate planning gone wrong. Probate law in Nevada allows for estate planning that can minimize estate taxes, avoid an expensive and time-consuming probate, and maintain privacy. The key is to create the right trust structure, which can be handled by experienced estate planning lawyer Rob Telles with Accolade Law. To schedule your no-cost, no-obligation consultation, call us today at (702) 337-3000