VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Common estate planning errors

Celebrities are just as likely to make the same estate planning mistakes as people who are less famous. In April, reports surfaced in Florida media that Prince did not have a will when he died suddenly. This was also true in the death of singer Amy Winehouse. As a result, it was impossible to know whether she might have wanted to leave something to her brother or ex-husband, and Winehouse's parents got her entire estate.

Not setting up a trust can be another mistake for anyone who seeks privacy. Singer Whitney Houston had a will but not a trust, and this means that the details of her estate were public. A living trust would have prevented this. Another error is not updating the estate plan. Writer Michael Crichton made this mistake despite his wife's pregnancy as he was dying of cancer. His 2007 will disinherited any future children, and his sixth wife and a daughter from a former marriage fought over the estate in court. The sixth wife succeeded in getting a part of the estate for the baby. People who have recently divorced, married, sold a business or had another major life change should update their estate plan.

It is important to prepare for disability early on. The son and husband of singer Etta James fought over whether she signed a power of attorney when she was in her right mind.

An attorney may be able to assist with all of these aspects of estate planning from creating a trust to writing a living will and more. An attorney might also be able to discuss options a person may be unaware of. For example, trusts can introduce more flexibility and control into how assets are distributed. People may also not have considered issues such as the tax implications of certain documents that an attorney can explain.

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