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Wednesday
Mar022016

Celebrities Who Failed To Recognize Unborn Children in Their Wills: An Avoidable Problem

Having an estate plan that protects and provides for your loved ones is not only smart, it’s necessary. Without one, your family, friends, or the charitable organizations you wish to provide for may not receive your gifts. 

It’s also important to remember to update your estate planning documents whenever something changes which would affect your intentions. Two famous artists failed to recognize their unborn children in their Wills, which lead to unintended consequences. Unintended consequences that could have been avoided.

  1. Michael Crichton. Crichton was a best-selling author, physician, producer, director, and screenwriter. He was most known for his work in science fiction including books such as Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain, The Lost World, and many more.

a. Sadly, he died of cancer in 2008 leaving behind a grown daughter from a previous marriage as well as his current wife, Sherri Alexander, who was pregnant with his son.  As a self-admitted workaholic, Crichton never got around to updating his estate plan to provide for his unborn son.

b. When he passed, his net worth was approximately $175 million. Sherri Alexander filed a lawsuit against the estate to include her son in the will. However, Crichton's grown daughter, Taylor, opposed the lawsuit and a long and drawn out court battle ensued. A judge ruled that the son would inherit, but it likely cost millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees and much stress before that decision was made. 

2.Heath Ledger. Ledger, an Australian director and actor, was most known for his role as the Joker in Dark Knight. Although only 28-years-old, his estate had a net worth of approximately $16 million. His will left his entire estate to his parents and three sisters.  He failed to update his will even when he had a child (Matilda) with Michelle Williams and died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2008. 

 

a. The ensuing family legal battles lasted for over five years. Similar to Crichton’s situation, Ledger’s daughter was able to inherit – but again, not without spending a lot of money on litigation.

No One Likes To Think About Death, But It’s Necessary:

Most people don’t like to think about their own death and dealing with estate planning documents often forces us to do just that. However, as these situations show, it’s an important and necessary task to undertake. 

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

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