Celebrity Estates: Honey, I Forgot the Kids

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It is recommended that you review your will every few years or after major life events occur, such as the birth of a child. Not everyone takes the necessary steps, however, to protect their children. Consider these three stories of celebrities that left the kids in the lurch:
  • When actor Heath Ledger died suddenly at age 29, his 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, was left out of his will. The actor's will was created before she was born and Ledger neglected to update it after she arrived. Ultimately, however, Ledger's family decided to give everything to Matilda.
  • Author Michael Crichton died at the age of 66 when his wife was six months pregnant. His will at the time did not include provisions for the child. In fact, it had language excluding any new children. Court battles over whether the baby should be allowed to inherit ensued between Crichton's wife and his adult daughter from a previous marriage. After an extensive legal battle, the court ruled that the baby was entitled to share in the inheritance.
  • James Brown didn't so much forget his seven kids, as he intentionally left them out of his will. Not close to his children, Brown wanted to give virtually his entire fortune to a trust to help educate underprivileged children. His family disputed these wishes, saying his attorneys talked him into creating the trusts so they could profit from the management of the trusts. After years of hearings, it was decided that nearly half of his fortune go to his charitable trust and the rest to Brown's children and most recent wife.

Learn From Their Mistakes

Updating your plans to reflect your current wishes is just one lesson you should take away from these celebrity stories. Another lesson: Communicate your wishes.

Talking with loved ones about your estate plans is an easy topic to put off. Many people believe it's a matter best kept between themselves and their professional advisors. Sharing your decisions with the people they affect, however, can provide peace of mind now and avoid misunderstandings later.

Tips for Communicating Your Wishes

Once you gather your loved ones, here are some tips to help you start the conversation:
  • Thank your family for recognizing what this meeting means to you.
  • Emphasize your goals and your concerns for the future of your loved ones.
  • Detail the responsibilities, items and amounts you've chosen to give your family members
    and why.
  • Express your desires and goals for any charitable gifts.

If you are interested in including a gift to Gustavus Adolphus College in your will, please contact Jackie Peterson at 507-933-7543 or jpeters9@gustavus.edu for more information.

Download our free guide on reasons to update your will.