The Pitfalls of Not Making or Not Updating Your Will

Last will and testament

Don’t fall victim to the pitfalls of not making or updating your Will. Even the estates of those in the limelight have been affected by the consequences. Instructing a solicitor to prepare or update your Will helps to limit the risks of your estate ending up in the wrong hands and/or claims against your estate.

Please see our examples of celebrity estates that have been negatively impacted by their failure to prepare or update their Will.

January

Salvatore Phillip “Sonny” Bono, famous for being part of the well-known singing duo ‘Sonny and Cher’, died in January 1998 from a tragic ski accident. He didn’t have a Will. Sonny had been married four times and had four children. Sonny’s widow, Mary Bono, applied to be the executor of Sonny’s estate which was estimated to be worth around $2million.

However, without a Will in place, the administration of Sonny’s Will became difficult. Two claims were made against the estate. One was from Sonny’s second Wife, Cher, who sought a share in his estate because of alleged unpaid maintenance payments following their divorce settlement. The second claim was made by Sonny’s alleged ‘love child’. However, the second claim was dropped when a DNA test was requested.

After a lengthy and costly battle, Mary was eventually named as Sonny’s executor. Ultimately, Sonny could have prevented his family from the stress, expense and conflict they had to go through by preparing a Will which clearly stipulated where he wanted his estate to go after his death.

February

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a well-known UK socialite died in February 2017 at the age of 45 from a perforated ulcer. Tara had previously prepared a Will in 2004 which left her entire estate to any children she may have when they reached the age of 25 years old.

At the date of death, Tara did not have any children. As a result, her reported £2.3 million estate passed to her siblings instead.

It is hoped that in the absence of any children, Tara would have wanted her estate to be divided equally between her siblings. However, any uncertainty could have been avoided if her Will had been updated to clearly state her wishes.

It is recommended that Wills are reviewed at least every 5 years or when a big event has happened in your life, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children and after a property transaction (to name a few).

March

Nate Dogg, an America rapper, songwriter and actor famously known for the song Regulate (1994), born Nathanial Dwayne Hale who died on 15 March 2011.

Nate was 41 when he died and even with his complex family unit he did not leave a Will.

At the date of his death he was separated from his wife, not divorced and had 6 children from several relationships.

Nate’s wife, mother and children were in dispute for several years as to who would deal with the administration of his estate – there were trust issues between the family members with the children wanting a professional administrator to be appointed – and how the estate would be divided.

The estate was eventually divided between his wife and 6 children.

During the administration of the estate a further complication arose with a claim being made against the estate for unpaid child support from the mother of one of his children who was born in 2006.

By making a Will, Nate would have provided specific instructions as to who would deal with the administration of his estate and who would inherit what. This would have prevented some (maybe not all) of the family feud and arguments which took place after his death.

April

Pablo Picasso, the world-famous artist and art Icon died on 8 April 1973 at the age of 91 leaving an extensive estate and a future of disputes between his heirs.  Picasso did not leave a Will and this caused a huge dispute between his family.

Picasso had two wives, several mistresses and had both legitimate and illegitimate children:

Olga Khokhlova – wife – son Paulo (born 1921 died 1975)

Marie-Therese Walter – partner – Maya (born 1935)

Françoise Gilot – partner – Claude (1947) & Paloma (born 1949)

Picasso’s estate took 6 years to administer at a cost of approximately $30 million dollars. The estate was divided between his children and grandchildren.

With Picasso’s immense wealth, fortune and future royalties for his masterpieces it would have made sense for him to be advised to make a Will. By making a Will it would have resulted in an almost smooth administration of the estate and most certainly significantly less would have been incurred in Legal Fees.

May

Bob Marley died in May 1981 at the age of 36 after losing his battle with cancer. Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Bob Marley failed to prepare a Will. He left behind an estate worth an estimated $30 million, a wife and around 11 children with different partners.

Marley’s assets would have passed under Jamaican intestate law, but those laws do not favour the widow. This led to Marley’s attorney and accountant attempting to fraudulently transfer Marley’s assets to make it more favourable for Marley’s widow. Their plans were discovered and this led to a lengthy legal battle.

The Court had to advertise for potential heirs to Bob Marley’s estate to step forward. As should have been expected, hundreds of people claimed to be Marley’s offspring in the hope of obtaining a slice of his estate.

Due to complications caused by not having a Will in place, it took 10 years before the estate was finally settled in Court. Numerous legal battles have continued over the rights to certain aspects of Marley’s estate.

This sad case is another reminder of the importance of estate planning.

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