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Famous estates in disarray: lessons to learn from

Imagine a situation where your estate isn't settled by your heirs until 34 years after your death. It sounds like a frustrating and costly situation, and it is exactly what happened to Howard Hughes' estate. Hughes was a business magnate whose estate was valued at $2.5 billion when he died in 1976. Because he lacked an estate plan, the man's estate took 34 years to settle after major legal battles amongst potential heirs.

Hughes wasn't the only famous person to lack an estate plan. Many presidents, including Presidents Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and Garfield lacked estate plans. In addition to these presidents, pop-star turned Congressman Sonny Bono also lacked an estate plan before dying unexpectedly in a ski accident.

One positive estate planning story from the rich and famous comes from the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Although he died young, Elvis Presley actually had a well thought out estate plan. Despite attempts of extortion against his estate, much of his fortune was willed to his daughter, and trusts were set up to ensure proper handling of his assets.

It is important to remember that although these people probably had the ability to plan their estates, they likely didn't make it a priority. Making estate planning a priority is important for people, even if they aren't celebrities or ultra-wealthy. Having a proper and well defined estate plan can help family prevent drawn out arguments and potentially costly legal battles after a loved one passes away.

Source: Wealth Management, "Lessons of the Rich and Famous ... in Death," Jim Moniz, Dec. 24, 2012

-Our law firm handles estate planning documents to ensure assets are divided according to a person's wishes. Please visit our website to learn more.

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