It is nearly unheard of for the death of a celebrity to lead to positive headlines about estate planning. The typical news that follows is about who has been disinherited and what feuds arose out of the proceedings. There are several reasons why celebrity cases should not be used to present the merits of estate planning. Perhaps the primary reason is that even when a famous person executes a perfect estate plan and everything proceeds as it should, the headlines will still present it as a drama-filled debacle.
Case In Point
The passing of American icon Burt Reynolds could be held up as an example of the power and utility of estate planning devices. Mr. Reynolds provided for his son through the use of a trust. For news media, this is a sad affair. The problem is that trusts, unlike wills, are not public documents. The arrangement between Mr. Reynolds and his son is private. The omission of his son from his will is not a failure, but rather a sign that everything had been taken care of in advance.
The Value Of Secrecy
For a celebrity, the desire to keep final arrangements out of the news is natural. That does not mean that people who aren’t famous can’t also benefit from trusts, or from an extra dose of privacy. If you want to make different arrangements for your children, trusts might be the best way to accomplish this without creating family friction. If you want to provide for someone without publicizing your decision to your spouse or other family members, a will cannot accomplish that. Your estate planning decisions are personal to you. You have the right to make them without telling anyone who wants to learn about it exactly what you’ve done.
The key in every case is to know what you want to accomplish and what tools are available to accomplish it. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can see to it that your goals are reached in the best way possible.