When you sign a will, you get to decide who gets what (and when and how) after you die. Without a will, state law doles out your belongings according to a set of rules the legislature wrote. (Do you trust your legislature to decide who gets your assets when you die, and who’s in charge of getting it done?) In many cases, your assets may end up in the hands of complete strangers or family members you would never have given them to. That’s exactly what happened to these three mega-celebrities:
1. James Dean. Dean died intestate (without a will) in 1955 at the age of 24. State law awarded most of his meager estate (he had made only three movies) to his father. Now most of his estate is in the hands of his father’s relatives. His father did use some of that money to create a foundation to maximize the commercial value of his name, likeliness, and image. Ironically, Dean has consistently been one of the top 10 highest earning deceased celebrities up until 2012. His income in 2015 alone was $8.5 million and he’s been deceased for over 60 years!
2. Jimi Hendrix. Legendary singer and guitarist Jimi Hendrix died intestate in 1970 at the age of 27. Like Dean, the state awarded most of his estate to his father who created a family trust. By 2002, his father’s trust had grown to $80 million. Jimi’s father left the fortune to his adopted daughter. In turn, she created trusts for almost everyone in the family – except Jimi’s own brother Leon. Although he sued, he never got a dime of the estate now worth $175 million. Clearly there’s another story there.
3. Pablo Picasso. Famous painter Pablo Picasso died intestate in 1973 at the age of 91. Given his age, it’s surprising that he did not assign a beneficiary to his estate (which today would have been valued at nearly $200 million). His heirs, including Paloma Picasso, battled in the courts with everyone who wanted part of his fortune – including the French government who alleged that Picasso owed millions in back taxes. His children received the bulk of his estate in the end, but not without a great deal of heartache.
Despite the differences in age, the above celebrities left millions of dollars on the table and started an avalanche of lawsuits by those who wanted a piece of the pie. The takeaway? Do not follow in their footsteps!
Make Your Intentions Crystal Clear in a Will or Trust
Regardless of whether you’re a famous actor, singer or painter – or a regular working Joe or Jane, you have the power to make sure that your family, friends, or organizations get what you want them to have – and when and how you want them to have it! The process is simple – make your intentions crystal clear by creating a will or trust drafted by an experienced attorney.