Celebrity estate wars are well known to Americans, whether it is Jerry Garcia or Anna Nicole Smith or Etta James, reports Reuters. Just because someone has passed away doesn’t mean that they pie they left behind shouldn’t be fought over. But there may be lessons in cases like those of Etta James for just about everyone.
Apparently the most common scenario for celebrity estate wars are second or third marriages with children from multiple marriages. Other celebrity estate wars occur when families were in business together, reports Reuters.
So what should average people take away from reading about celebrity estate feuds?
Well, that planning is important. In fact, one way to distinguish oneself form a few celebrities is by showing some responsibility. One big measure of responsibility is how much time and effort you put into your estate plan.
When a person dies without having a valid will in place, his or her property passes by what is called "intestate succession" to heirs according to state law. In other words, if you don't have a will, the state will make one for you. All fifty states have laws of this kind on the books.
The purpose of intestate succession laws is to distribute the decedent's wealth in a manner that closely represents how the average person would have designed his or her estate plan, had that person had a will. However, this default can differ dramatically from what the person really would have wanted. Even where it is known what the person intended, no exceptions are made where no valid will exists. Nor are there any exceptions made based on need or special circumstances.
So, in this case, don't aspire to be like the celebrities who leave a mess behind. Intestate succession might be too big a word for some of our leading ladies and gentlemen, but it need not be so hard for the rest of us.