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Celebrity examples of estate planning mistakes

In virtually any significant social matter, the mistakes of others can present an opportunity to those who are willing to learn from those errors. Such is the case with celebrity estate planning missteps, which are often widely reported in the media. New Jersey residents who follow these matters can learn a great deal about how not to construct their own estate plans, and can use that knowledge to avoid a similar outcome.

Take, for example, the contention and strife that followed the death of Michael Crichton. The successful author made millions of dollars from his popular novels and their movie rights. However, a failure to update his estate plan left his family in a series of bitter battles after his unexpected death.

Crichton was married a total of five times, and he had children with several of those women. At the time of his death, his fifth wife was pregnant with the couple's first child. However, Crichton had not yet updated his estate plan to include that child. Even worse, an earlier will specifically stated that any future children would be excluded from inheriting. This left his youngest child completely disinherited, an outcome that his widow has contested in court.

While it is impossible to know what Crichton would have wanted, it is hard to imagine that he would have intended for his youngest child from his intact marriage to inherit nothing from his estate. However, because he failed to update his estate planning documents to include that child, there is a risk that this will be the ultimate outcome. For those in New Jersey who have experienced shifts in their own family structure since the last time their estate plan was amended, this story should prompt a review of those documents.

Source: recordonline.com, "Bonnie Kraham: Learn from these celebrity estate-planning mishaps", Bonnie Kraham, Nov. 12, 2014

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