Celebrity Estate Plans Gone Wrong

Celebrities – people want to be like them. They’ve got money, clout, people know them. But, as the old saying goes, money doesn’t buy everything. You’d think that with all the money celebrities have they’d understand the importance of having an estate plan. Unfortunately, far from it. Many celebrities have passed away in the last decade without so much as a note on a cafe napkin. Prince, Aretha Franklin, James Gandolfini, and Philip Seymour-Hoffman are all A-list celebs who made massive mistakes when it came to handling their millions.

Aretha Franklin


The Queen of Soul passed away in Michigan in 2018. Because she did not have a will, her sons were left going to probate court to fight for her nearly 80 million dollar estate. And, to top it off, because she had a history of debt, debt collectors could come after her money and her loved ones could be missing out on funds that she intended to have.

No one knows why Aretha didn’t have a will – she had the money for an experienced estate planning attorney. Perhaps she was fearful of her own demise or the idea of looking at her assets overwhelmed her. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to have a supportive team on your side and fighting for you. We understand estate planning can be scary and help walk our clients through the process in the most simple, straightforward process possible.

Philip Seymour-Hoffman


Philip Seymour-Hoffman suffered an untimely death due to a drug overdose. It was unexpected not just to his family, but also to him. That explains why he hadn’t updated his will in over 10 years. An outdated will is just as bad as not having a will at all. One major problem with his will was that is was drawn up by a real estate attorney, not one who deals with estate planning.

One of the biggest gaffes? Seymour-Hoffman wasn’t married to the woman he left most of his money to, and because New York doesn’t recognize common law marriages she is like to pay a large amount of money towards taxes.

James Gandolfi


James Gandolfini had a will, but it was prepared in such a way that those he left money to would be heavily taxed. For example, Gandolfini left 20% of his estate to his wife, with the remaining going to his infant daughter and others. Unfortunately, the money he willed to his daughter and others could be taxed up to 55%, whereas the money his wife received was not taxable.

This is one of the main reasons why it’s important to have a legal team on your side that can help you understand how best to allocate funds. Our estate planning lawyers will walk through this process with you, ensuring you take advantage of any loopholes and that your accounts are managed in the best way possible.

We get it, people want to be like celebrities. But do yourself a favor and forget about being like Aretha or Philip Seymour-Hoffman. An estate plan will help you understand your assets and know that when you pass away your loved ones will be taken care of.

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