Estate planning lessons to be learned from music stars' mistakes

The music and entertainment world in California and around the globe was rocked to its core when several pop superstars suffered untimely deaths. Prince, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were central figures in the pop music industry for most of their careers. In addition to remembering them for the international impact they made with their musical talents, many people now mention their names when discussing major estate planning errors to avoid.

One doesn't have to be wealthy to execute an estate plan. Regardless of the size of a particular estate, signing documents, such as a last will and testament or implementing a trust, may prevent major complications and stress for family members down the line. Prince, for instance, died with no final will or estate plan in place. Because he had no known children at the time of his death, nor had listed any heir to his estate, his death has led to an ongoing legal battle where as many as 45 people have come forward claiming they should inherit his assets. Some even say they are his biological children.

Houston, on the other hand, did specify in writing that her daughter should receive installments of her inheritance and that assets should go to her mother and brothers should her daughter ever become deceased. The problem in this particular situation is that her daughter did, in fact, suffer an untimely death. She had not executed a written estate plan, which has now created legal complications regarding the 10 percent of Houston's inheritance she received before she died.

Jackson left a will but the exact value of his estate is still being debated in tax court. There are estate planning tools that can help heirs and beneficiaries avoid heavy estate taxes. An experienced California attorney can help design and incorporate a solid estate plan ahead of time to prevent problems that could take months, even years to resolve.

Source:, "Iconic Estate Flops: What Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince Did Wrong", Justin Brimmer, Dec. 11, 2017

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