Tom Petty on stage singing

Another Celebrity Death and Lesson With Regard to Estate Planning

by Legacy Plan Aug 5, 2016

Summary: Estate planning experts often use the well-publicized reports of the estate plans of celebrities (or celebrities’ lack of estate plans) to teach important lessons that we all can learn. Sometimes it’s the downsides of intestate succession, the perils of a failure to engage in plan updates or the problems presented by overlooking the vital step of trust funding. The recent sudden death of another music celebrity serves as a reminder of another kind: the essential importance of avoiding the trap of procrastination when it comes to estate planning, as none of us know how much time we have left, so none of us can afford to procrastinate taking control of our legacies and protecting our loved ones.

There are many ways celebrity estate plans have gone wrong. Doing nothing and leaving one’s estate to the intestate succession system (as Prince did) can often create complication, confusion and a wealth of other unintended (and often undesired) consequences. Getting a plan but then failing to update it for decades can also cause significant problems and potentially thwart your true goals. When Whitney Houston died, her will was 19 years old and had never been updated at all since its execution. Michael Jackson engaged in comprehensive estate planning, but then failed to fund the trust that was created as part of his plan.

In other situations, though, news reports about celebrities can offer extremely important lessons about estate planning even when we know nothing about that star’s plans. Take, for instance, rock singer and songwriter Tom Petty. A Los Angeles Times music critic and reporter interviewed Petty in late September, shortly after his band ended their 2017 concert tour. Petty and the reporter discussed the many upcoming goals the singer had for himself, like producing an album for an up-and-coming band, working on his SiriusXM radio show and spending more time with his family.

Then, on October 2, Petty abruptly died of a heart attack. The Times writer’s article, originally intended to focus on the singer’s work, instead focused heavily on just how incredibly sudden and shockingly unexpected Petty’s death was. Petty was 66 and had gone through a battle with drugs in the past, but appeared to be in good health and nowhere near close to death.

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So far, the media has not published any reports about the specifics of Petty’s estate plan, such as whether or not he had one or, if he did, what it looked like. In many ways, though, the estate planning lesson of Tom Petty has little to do with his legal documents themselves. Petty was a man with plans and goals. He had music projects lined up and also had personal plans, like making up for lost time with his 4-year-old granddaughter. Few if any people (certainly, no one in the media) saw him as anything other than man with many more productive years left to live.

Petty, in other words, was a lot like all of us. He was full of plans and dreams. He was full of family goals and professional objectives. He was full of life, until… one day, suddenly, he wasn’t. The education to take from the death of Tom Petty is that our remaining days, months and years are always going to be an unknown. As the saying goes, none of us is promised tomorrow.

So, when it comes to estate planning, don’t wait. Too many people procrastinate getting a proper estate plan in place, for any of a variety of reasons. Part of that procrastination is often fueled by the belief that estate planning isn’t urgent but rather is something that CAN be put off. “I’ll do it later… it can wait.” Don’t make that mistake. Your good health today is not a guarantee of longevity into the future. Take steps now to ensure that your loved ones are protected and your legacy is secure.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com

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Legacy Assurance Plan
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