Lesson 2. Procrastination is Expensive.
When Amy Winehouse, passed away, her ex husband was hoping for a share of her estate, but her Will said “No, No, No.” Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, moving across state lines, and the purchase or sale of real property, are all life events that require reevaluation of wills, trusts and beneficiary designations.
When Amy Winehouse passed away, her ex-husband was hoping for a share of her estate, but her Will said “No, No, No.” When Amy tragically died at the age of 27, the media speculated that her fortune would pass to her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Fielder-Civil is in prison for burglary, among other crimes, and is credited with introducing Amy to drugs linked to her early death. However, Amy had the foresight to update her documents right after her divorce from Fielder-Civil to make sure her family – her father, brother and mother – would inherit her fortune.
Even those who make fortunes through the use of and powerful meaning behind words occasionally fail to get their point across, like Michael Crichton. Crichton, who was married five times, died “suddenly” at the age of 66 after a long battle with throat cancer while his wife was six months pregnant. Even though Crichton made sure to address his former wives in his will – including language intentionally omitting his former spouses – and his then wife, Sherri Alexander Crichton – instructing his executor to be bound by the terms of the prenuptial agreement he signed with Sherri in 2005 – Crichton’s will wasn’t updated to plan for his unborn son.
In fact, Crichton’s will specifically excluded his unborn son – “I have intentionally made no provision in this will for any of my heirs or relatives who are not herein mentioned or designated, and I hereby generally and specifically disinherit every person claiming to be or who may determined to be my heir-at-law, except as otherwise mentioned in this will.” Although California, and almost every other state, has laws (often referred to as the “pretermitted heir” law) to protect children that are accidentally omitted from the will so they can still receive a substantial portion of the estate, this usually requires years of litigation and hefty legal fees, with no sure result.
Lesson: Plan with an experienced Estate Attorney who will make sure you consider all options and encourage you to reevaluate your plan after major events. Make sure you have a Will, Power of Attorney, and Living Will. Appoint an executor and a digital executor to handle your estate. If you have minor children, make sure your Will creates a trust and appoints guardians who are responsible and have a long-enough life expectancy to care for each child until they reach 18.