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Celebrity estate planning mistakes to learn from

Florida residents who are planning for the future disposition of their estates can learn from some mistakes that celebrities have made in the past. For example, Heath Ledger and Paul Walker are both actors who died young and unexpectedly. However, Ledger had not updated his will since the birth of his daughter, and everything was left to his sisters and parents. Fortunately, the family decided the assets should go to her anyway. On the other hand, Walker had set up a trust fund that ensured everything passed to his daughter.

Unlike Walker, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman did not want "trust fund kids." Unfortunately, this meant that his longtime partner, who inherited the estate, was left with a large estate tax since the two were unmarried. Musician Lou Reed also eschewed a trust, but this meant that the details of his will became public during probate.

Author Tom Clancy's estate was divided between four adult children, his current wife and one minor child. However, he did not leave clear instructions about who was responsible for paying taxes, and these types of details can be important in a blended family. Similarly, actor James Gandolfini left a home in Italy to his children with no details about its upkeep. Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger penned his own will, and though it was valid, it also contained enough errors to cost his family money.

The Burger example demonstrates that even legal minds may make errors or overlook things in do-it-yourself documents. An attorney may help clients keep details in mind that they might otherwise overlook such as who will be responsible for taxes and upkeep of real estate or how those things will be paid for. An attorney can also help ensure that the right language is used and the right documents created to convey the wishes of the client.

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