We Should All Learn from Other People's Estate Planning Mistakes


There is much to be learned from the mistakes of others and the celebrity world abounds with cautionary tales when it comes to estate planning. Even with all the financial resources available to them, celebrities can neglect the basics when it comes to protecting assets.


I hear about sad tales all the time of “regular” people failing to take the proper steps to create an estate plan that assures their assets pass properly and that their heirs are spared from having to untangle costly legal messes.


Here are five important lessons you can learn from the mistakes of others:


1. Don’t die without a will


Celebrities are the same as most people when it comes to thinking they will live forever – but they differ greatly in that they usually have a lot more money to leave behind. Actor Heath Ledger died without updating his will to include his daughter; all his assets went to his parents and siblings.

2. Equal isn’t always the same


Thinking she was treating her two children equally in her bequest, one woman left her home to her son and her investment portfolio to her daughter. Unfortunately, when she died, there was a sizable tax liability on the home, and the only assets available were from the portfolio, leaving the daughter shortchanged.


3. Name the right executor


Naming a friend as executor is fine, but not always the best option. One woman named her best friend as her executor, but they happened to be the same age. When the woman died at age 86, her friend followed a few weeks later and no one was left to serve as executor since she hadn’t named a backup.


4. Provide for your children from a prior marriage


A man with children from a first marriage left all his assets to his second wife; when she died, all of those assets went to her children, leaving nothing for his children. Instead, he should have provided for them directly or placed his assets in a trust so they could pass to his children after her death.


5. Promises don’t count


Before he died, Marlon Brando allegedly promised his house to his caregiver but did not record that promise in his will. She did not get the house. If you want to leave something to someone, you need to put it in writing in your will or trust.


This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.


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All information available on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney directly regarding your specific situation. The use of and access to this website or the transmission of information via email or through this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC and any users or any other party. Transmission of information via email or through this website may not be secure, therefore confidentiality cannot be assumed.  By using this website or transmitting information via email or this website, the user agrees to this information being collected, stored, or transmitted to a third-party.

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