Your Will: Learn From Celebrity Blunders

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Despite the importance of having an effective, up-to-date will, mistakes still happen—even to people of great influence and affluence. Here's a chance to learn from their missteps.

Look out for your children—all of them. When Anna Nicole Smith died at 39, she left everything to her son, Daniel, who actually died before her at the age of 20. Her will was never updated to reflect his death, and it also did not mention her infant daughter, Dannielynn. In fact, it contained language excluding any future children. Eventually, the court deemed Dannielynn the sole beneficiary of Smith's estate.

Update your will to reflect any new wishes. Ted Williams, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, indicated in his will that he wished to be cremated and his ashes scattered off the Florida coast. A handwritten note—stained with motor oil—apparently signed by Williams two years before his death, however, said he wanted to be cryonically frozen. An estate battle erupted between his children but eventually came to an end when his eldest child withdrew her petition to retrieve her father's frozen body. 

Keep two copies of your will and tell two people where they are. When Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, died at 38, her husband was unable to find her original will. This resulted in court disputes between Joyner's husband and mother over her final wishes. It took more than four years to close her probate estate, and a third party was eventually appointed by the judge to administer her estate.

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Get tips on when and how to change your will.

Did you know that you can use your will to make a gift to Gustavus Adolphus College? Contact Laurie L. Dietrich '80 at 507-933-6043 or ldietric@gustavus.edu to learn more about this simple way to make a difference.