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You Can Learn from Various Celebrities’ Serious Estate Problems

. For example, when even moderate sums of money are involved, you should only surround yourself with honest, competent advisors and make sure you create a comprehensive estate plan while you’re still very young.                                                                                                                           Perhaps one of the saddest cases involves the great 20th-century comedian Groucho Marx. Other celebrities who faced a variety of unpleasant estate problems (and in some cases, accidentally created them) include: Sammy Davis Jr., the Doors’ singer Jim Morrison, businesswoman Leona Helmsley and child/adult actor Jackie Coogan.                            Interesting Issues Raised by Quarrels Over These Famous People's Estates

  • Sammy Davis, Jr.   Tax debts can ruin everything. Many people still have fond memories of this beloved singer (“The Candy Man”) who was a member of Frank Sonata's infamous “Rat Pack.” Although some of the details that undermined his estate are unclear, he died so broke that his debts exceeded his wealth. Either his major tax debts were never properly addressed by his advisers – or else he experienced a drop in income (or had troubling spending habits) that kept him from ever regaining his footing again financially before he died;
  • Leona Helmsley. Be careful when you try to disinherit others.   If you were alive back in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably remember seeing this wealthy woman on magazine covers and heard about how harsh she could be to others. When she died, she purposely cut two grandchildren out of her will and left $12 million in a trust for her dog. If she could be contacted in the next life, she would probably be very unhappy to learn that the grandchildren she tried to disinherit eventually received a settlement of about $6 million;
  • Jackie CooganAll parents/guardians cannot be trusted. This man was much beloved by many Americans as a child actor back during the first half of the 20th century. However, most Baby Boomers just recall him as quirky “Uncle Fester” on the 1960s hit TV show, “The Addams Family.” Sadly, when Coogan was quite young he tried to gain access to his childhood earnings – he then learned that his parents had squandered nearly all of it. For that reason, the Jackie Coogan Law was passed to protect child actors from unscrupulous parents and other money managers;
  • Jim Morrison of the Doors. Try to avoid creating one or more “laughing heirs.” Most young people never believe that can actually die quite early. For this reason, they often wait far too long to create a carefully constructed estate plan. When Jim Morrison died of a drug overdose back in 1971, he left everything to his common-law wife, Pamela Courson. Unfortunately, she died shortly after Morrison. Since that time, some have guessed that her parents may not have been very fond of Morrison for not marrying their daughter. In any event, Courson’s parents wound up inheriting part of Morrison’s money. (A laughing heir is someone a testator would never have selected as a beneficiary – so it’s often said that this type of beneficiary probably “laughed” all of the way to the bank with the deceased’s money);
  • Groucho Marx. Be careful when choosing a caregiver, significant other or personal assistant when you're growing old. When this highly talented actor/comedian (part of the legendary Marx Brothers) was 86 years old, a very sad estate scenario was unfolding and continued for another six years after his death. Basically, his companion (or assistant), Erin Fleming, apparently stole so much money from his estate while taking care of him that a court wound up ordering her to “pay [back] $221,000 to the Bank of America, executor of the estate.”                                                                                                                       

It took a very long time for Marx’s own three children -- who may not have been very close to him -- to finally receive any shares of his estate.(According to an article published in the Evening News on February 26, 1983, Mr. Marx’s adult children were finally given about a half million dollars to split between themselves. This was all that was left after the taxes, estate expenses, attorney fees, creditors and others were paid from the $1,850,000.00  gross estate Mr. Marx had when he died.)

 

To obtain help with satisfying all of your Georgia estate planning needs, please contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith today.  You can schedule your free initial consultation with a knowledgeable Peachtree City estate planning attorney by calling: (770) 487-8999.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia