Famous Will Catastrophes

This article was originally published in the LawCentral Bulletin 362 on 19th April 2011 and is republished with permission of the author, Brett Davies.

You’d be surprised at how many wealthy people die without a Will. Or don’t update their Will to reflect their changing circumstances. Some of the best examples of leaving things until it’s too late are:

  1. Howard Hughes the eccentric billionaire who founded PanAmerican Airlines. Died in 1976 at the age of 70. His Will was discovered at the headquarters of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City. However, the Will was proved a forgery and his estate was divided among his 22 cousins.
  2. Pablo Picasso died in 1973 at the age of 91. He left a fortune in assets including artwork, properties, cash,gold and bonds. Because Picasso didn’t make a Will, it took 6 years to settle his estate at a cost of US$30m. His assets were eventually divided up among six heirs.
  3. Stieg Larsson who wrote, amongst other titles, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, died in 2004. He too died without a Will.Swedish law dictated his estate be divided between his father and brother. His life long partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson received nothing. The family did grant her ownership of the couple’s apartment.
  4. Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. He didn’t leave a Will regarding the distribution of his estate. The battle over his estate raged on for more than 30 years for one simple reason. His estate continued to generate money long after his death.
  5. Heath Ledger died in 2008. He had a Will which left everything to his parents. The problem is, since he made that Will in 2003 – Heath had a child, Matilda. By not updating his Will to accommodate his new circumstances, Matilda got nothing in the Will. Fortunately,Heath’s parents made sure she was looked after, but without the aid of any tax protection like a 3G Testamentary Trust.

Don’t leave it to the Courts todecide the fate of your assets. Even worse, if you don’t have a Will and there is no next of kin – the Government takes it all as the default. You’ve alreadypaid enough tax in your lifetime, so why give the Government more when you die?

(Ed – And let’s not forget the estate disaster that followed Peter Brock’s death.)

If you don’t have a Will yet at the very least get a decent and cost effective one from LawCentral.