Estate Planning: What You Can Learn From the Mistakes of Celebrities

Jackie is back this week to discuss estate planning as she enjoys some music from the incredible collaboration between George Michael and Aretha Franklin and notes that even celebrities tend to avoid discussing their own mortality and estate planning despite their substantial wealth.

Reflecting on the passing of George Michael and Aretha Franklin, Jackie aims to draw attention to the estate planning mistakes made by celebrities and underscore the potential financial consequences of such oversights.


Lets dive into George Micheal’s situation

George Michael had a will at the time of his passing, his estate was valued at $97 million, which he left to his family and a few close friends. However, George Michael did not provide for his current or former long-term boyfriend in his will.

The former long-term boyfriend made a claim against George Michael’s estate as a dependent, and the claim was settled in 2021. On the other hand, George Michael’s current boyfriend, who took care of him, received nothing from the estate. We are uncertain what George Michael’s intentions regarding the exclusion of his current boyfriend from the will was. This is why not having an updated will can lead to unintended consequences for loved ones. In George Michael’s case, his recent boyfriend, who took care of him, did not receive any gifts from George or the family, even to this day.

Lesson One: It is important to not just have a will but update wills if you haven’t done so in a while to ensure that the current will reflects your intentions.


What Can You Learn from Aretha Franklin and Prince’s estate?

Aretha Franklin and Prince died without a will, despite their substantial wealth. Aretha Franklin had two handwritten wills, with one of them actually being found in her couch. However, since the dates of these wills were uncertain, neither was considered valid, resulting in her dying intestate (without a will).

Lesson Two: it is crucial to have a will that is notarized and validated by a lawyer to ensure its legitimacy. Holographic wills may be acceptable but having a notarized and validated will is ideal. When a person dies without a will, the Family Law Act prevails, meaning that the distribution of assets is determined based on the next of kin. Whether someone likes their next of kin or not, these individuals will inherit the assets because a proper plan was not made. The family courts will charge costly fees to sort out financial affairs in the absence of a will. Jackie encourages you to save yourself and your family the headaches associated with dying intestate, by creating a will, ensuring your loved ones know its location, and having your will validated and reviewed by a lawyer- this is especially crucial if you are in a blended family- where your estate might not be a straightforward as you might think.


Lesson Three: A Word on Privacy

Public figures like George Michael, Aretha Franklin, and Prince might not desire their net worth to be available to the public. However, since they did not have a will, the sorting out of their assets through the Family Law Act will make all their financial affairs public information. In the near future, once the courts handle their financial affairs, the public will be able to access information about their estate value and the assets they owned simply by searching online. If they had set up a trust, assets that flow through the trust would not be public information. Aretha Franklin’s lawyer advised her to do this, but she did not heed his advice.


What Can you Learn from Anthony Bourdain’s estate?

The example of Anthony Bourdain, who squandered his wealth while he was alive, and left a paltry estate for his young daughter also serves as a reminder to consider the purpose of one’s work as you pursue wealth accumulation.

Lesson Four

It’s crucial to be intentional about financial planning, maximizing savings, minimizing unnecessary taxes, and creating a plan to pass on wealth to loved ones we leave behind. Taking control of your finances and estate plan ensures that your life’s work benefits those you intended it for.

Lesson Five: What you can learn from all these Celebrities?

It’s important to emphasize the significance of regularly updating your will, ensuring it is notarized and validated by a lawyer, and communicating its location to your loved ones. The potential consequences of not having an updated will can lead to unintended outcomes, such as assets being distributed according to the Family Law Act, costly fees, and public scrutiny.

Furthermore, the case of celebrities like Aretha Franklin and Prince, who died without a will, highlights the importance of taking action to create a comprehensive estate plan. By not making a plan and being intentional about passing on assets to loved ones, you are leaving the decision of asset distribution to the family courts and exposing your financial affairs to public information. In addition, in the case of Anthony Bourdain, if you’re not thinking about the value of the assets you are passing on, you can leave the people you love the most, benefiting the least from your life’s work.

Final advice for professionals looking to get their estate plan in order

If you are ready to take action and be intentional about your estate plan, seeking professional guidance can be beneficial. Having a conversation with a financial planner or estate planning professional can provide insights into wealth accumulation, and estate strategies to maximize what is passed to future generations. Reach out to our team at for a free 30-minute strategy session

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