The Hidden Danger of Living Wills – The Publicity of Probate
I want to talk a little bit about wills and the publicity of having a probate.
Hi there, Bridget Mackay of the Law Offices of Bridget Mackay in Petaluma, California working in estate planning and elder law. And in the past, I’ve talked several times on video blogs and written blogs, the benefits of a trust over a will. And basically, the benefits of even just doing some level of estate planning, at a base level a will.
However, I want to talk a little bit about wills and the publicity of having a probate. Most of us “average Joes”, if we pass away and we have a will, that will goes through court and its public record. It’s not an issue, our neighbors aren’t showing up at the hearings to find out how much money we’re worth or who our assets are going to. However, if you were famous it could be a problem and publicity could be hurtful.
So much so in the case of Richard Harrison who was in Pawn Stars, the old man in Pawn Stars. He died last year at 77 and he had a will and he excluded his son Christopher in the will. Well, that will in the process of getting probated, went to court, became public and the news media got a hold of it. A ton of articles and speculation came up around why Christopher was excluded in this trust, in this will and in his planning. It brought a lot of pain upon the family. They now not only are dealing with their parent dying and administering his will through court but also having to deal with the news media who are, you know, furiously making reasons up of why Christopher was excluded.
The other case is Aretha Franklin who recently passed away and she in fact had no will. A very private Queen of Soul now has her estate, who her family members are, what assets she holds all going through Detroit courts. And all open to the public and media to speculate over.
We see this countless times with celebrities and all of a sudden what were private people like Prince and Michael Jackson, now become very public people in death and not away I’m thinking they want to be. And not only does the probate maybe last, you know, once it’s out there. There’s challenges that then become public even though there might be extended family, creditors, you know everything about this person. Which is probably not the outcome they wanted. Ike Turner’s will or estate is still in litigation 11 years after he’s died.
Long story short, it doesn’t matter if you’re famous or not. A better path and planning your estate and keeping things private is to get a trust. So, talk to a qualified estate planning attorney about getting your trust done.