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Phone: 201-345-3018

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We can learn from high-profile estate planning mistakes

Many Americans have the enviable ability to learn from the mistakes made by others, and apply that knowledge to their own lives. In this way, we can often avoid making similar mistakes, which can save a great deal of time, money and effort. When it comes to estate planning, the high-profile mistakes made by certain celebrities offer a number of important lessons, many of which can be put to use by all New Jersey residents.

For example, rock legend Jimi Hendrix failed to draft a will. When he died at the young age of 27, he left behind an estate that would grow to an estimated value of $80 million in 2002. After his death an attorney managed the estate for 20 years, until Jimi's father sued and obtained rights to the estate. At that point, the father created a number of trusts and corporations, and eventually left the bulk of the estate to his adopted daughter from a later marriage. In essence, the majority of the wealth created by the musician went to an individual whom he shared no relation, simply because he failed to draft a will.

Another example lies in the death of musician, television star and politician Sonny Bono. When he died in a skiing accident in 1998, he left behind no will. At the time he was married, and had four children from four different marriages. Because there was no will, his estate was subject to state law, giving each of his children entitlement to a portion of the estate. His wife was appointed as administrator, but then had to fend off paternity claims form one woman and a lawsuit from Bono's famous ex, Cher.

These are just two of the many celebrity examples of the risks of failing to take proper estate planning measures. Because celebrity deaths and the resulting battle over their high-dollar estates receive so much media attention, these and similar examples give us plenty to think about in regard to our own estate planning needs. While we may be considering far less valuable assets, the message is the same: leaving no directive at all subjects our loved ones to a division of assets dictated by New Jersey law, not by our own wishes.

Source: lifehealthpro.com, 6 tragic celebrity estate plans, Vanessa De La Rosa, March 20, 2014

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