If you’ve ever read People, US, or Entertainment Weekly or watched any of the similar television shows, you might be interested to know how some famous celebrities left their assets upon their deaths. If they left a Will and not a Trust, you can find out: It’s public record. That’s right, you can go right to the courthouse and see their Wills for yourself!
- Gerry Garcia left all of his guitars to Douglas Erwin.
- John Lennon wanted Sam Green to be Guardian of his children if Yoko Ono was not living at his death.
- Elvis Presley left his assets for the benefit of his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, his grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, and his father, Vernon E. Presley. Elvis’ Will provided that his assets were to go outright to Lisa Marie on her twenty-fifth birthday.
- Joe DiMaggio left $100,000 to his nephew of the same name. DiMaggio’s only son’s children were both adopted. DiMaggio left trusts of at least $250,000 for each great-grandchild. He left 45% of what was left to his son, and 40% and 15% to his two grandchildren.
- Richard Nixon left amounts from $10,000 to $70,000 to various grandchildren, in order to equalize gifts made during life. He then left $50,000 to each grandchild and the balance to his daughters, if living. His personal and official papers he left to the Nixon Library.
- Benjamin Franklin, American patriot and former Ambassador to France, left most things to his daughter, including a picture of the King of France set with 408 diamonds. However, he instructed his daughter not to have any of the diamonds removed for her or her daughters’ “personal ornamentation…and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain, and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country.”
- Walt Disney left a very extensive Will he signed less than a year before his death in 1967. It provided for his wife and children and left money to the Disney Foundation and the California Institute for the Arts.
As you can see, every Will, even those of the Presidents, rock stars, and movie titans are a matter of public record. If you choose, you can avoid the prying eyes of the public, even if they are only your neighbors or distant relatives. A properly funded Revocable Living Trust is not a matter of public record. Such a trust holds legal title to your assets during your lifetime. The public process of probate only concerns assets titled in your individual name at your death. As your assets in the Trust are not titled in your individual name, they avoid the probate process and the public scrutiny it entails.
You can do what many famous people did not think of: Avoid the publicity, expense, and time delays of the probate process through the use of a Trust. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you set up an estate plan that will keep your affairs from being everybody’s business.
Tab Artis is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and has been engaged in the practice of law for the last fourteen years. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, click HERE to be directed to The Artis Law Firm’s Workshops page.
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