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Estate planning: Learning from celebrities' mistakes

New York residents and others around the country are often fascinated by celebrities and their glamorous lifestyles, and this fascination can continue after their deaths. It is not at all unusual for the estate administration process, particularly if there are any disputes or accusations, to be fodder for the tabloid magazines and even legitimate news sites.

While the lifestyles of celebrities are far removed from the reality of most people's lives, their deaths and how their estates are handled can be great examples of what to do and not to do in your own estate planning. Having a thorough and up-to-date estate plan is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your assets are distributed the way you intend.

Leaving any room for ambiguity or uncertainty in your estate plan leaves a wide door for disputes after your death, and this means it can take years for the estate to be resolved. Author Tom Clancy, who passed in 2013, serves as one such example. Because his estate plan did not state how the estate taxes should be paid, his wife and children from another marriage have been fighting for years over who will pay the $8 million in taxes.

When drawing up an estate plan, it is always important to think and plan for the possibility of any disputes even if you have every reason to believe that your heirs will get along. The death of a loved one is an emotional time, and people often do not act as they usually do in their grief. Planning for the worst and spelling everything out can help make the estate administration process as smooth as possible, and developing your estate plan with a knowledgeable attorney can ensure you don't miss any lesser known aspects, causing disputes down the road.

Source: Times Herald-Record, "Bonnie Kraham: Celebrities' estate stories can provide a lesson" Bonnie Kraham, Jan. 07, 2015

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