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Lisa Marie Presley

Lisa Marie Presley, unlike many celebrities, had an estate plan in place

by Amelia Burke | Contributor
February 9, 2023

Lisa Marie Presley might just be an example of a celebrity who died with a successful estate plan. She established The Elvis Presley Trust, which left Graceland to her three daughters. It makes provisions for her minor daughters to benefit when they come of age and states that nothing will change with the operation and management of the property. Like Lisa Marie Presley, many Americans have second homes. There are various estate planning options for second homes including outright transfers, qualified personal residence trusts and family LLCs. With the help of estate planning professionals, every person with a second home can have a successful estate plan that fits their needs.

Graceland

On Jan. 12, 2023, Lisa Marie Presley tragically passed away at age 54 after suffering from cardiac arrest. Her unexpected death occurred only two days after she attended the Golden Globe Awards. She was survived by her three daughters. Lisa Marie had two children from a marriage with Danny Keough: Riley Keough, 33, and a son, Benjamin, who died in 2020 from suicide at the age of 27. She had twin daughters, Harper and Finley, 14, with Michael Lockwood. Her divorce from Lockwood was finalized in 2021.

Despite losing much of her inheritance throughout her life, she had retained ownership of Graceland, the mansion her famous father once owned. The 13.8-acre Memphis property is a major tourist attraction. It is open to the public for tours and overnight stays. In 2020, Rolling Stone estimated the property is worth between $400 million and $600 million.

Lisa Marie Presley established a trust that stated Graceland would go to her three daughters. Unlike many celebrities, especially those who die unexpectedly at a relatively young age, there is no probate disaster, such as the lack of a valid last will and testament, to write about regarding Lisa Marie’s death.

Elvis Presley’s estate plan

Elvis Presley died at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977. Elvis, himself had a successful estate plan. He had a trust that appointed his father, Vernon Presley, as executor and trustee. The beneficiaries of the trust were Elvis’ grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, Vernon, and his daughter, Lisa Marie. Vernon died in 1979, and Minnie Mae died in 1980, leaving Lisa Marie as the sole heir to her father’s estate.

Because Lisa Marie was a minor and only 9 years old when her father died, Elvis’ will provided that her inheritance was to be held in trust until her 25th birthday.

Lisa Marie Presley’s estate plan

When Lisa Marie turned 25 in 1993, the trust Elvis established automatically dissolved. Lisa Marie then created a new trust, The Elvis Presley Trust, in its place to continue the management of her estate. She appointed her mother, Priscilla Presley, and her former business manager to serve as trustees.

According to news reports, Lisa Marie amended the trust in 2016, removing her mother and the business manager as trustees. In their place, Lisa Marie appointed her daughter, Riley Keough, and her two twin daughters, who are minors.

Her three daughters also are the beneficiaries of the trust. Because two of her daughters are minors, her trust makes provisions for them when they come of age. The terms of the trust provide that nothing will change with the operation and management of Graceland. Because trusts are private documents that avoid probate, the public is only privy to the information that is released by Graceland representatives.

One wrinkle, common with celebrity estates, is a challenge to Lisa Marie’s plan. Priscilla has claimed that she didn’t receive the required notice that the trust was amended and her removal as trustee. She also claims her name is misspelled and the trust amendment wasn’t witnessed or notarized.

A high-profile probate lawyer, quoted in news reports, says he doubts Pricilla’s objections will prevail, and Lisa Marie’s plan is likely to succeed.

“Priscilla will have to show that Lisa Marie didn’t have the capacity, or it was not her signature or she was pressured to amend the agreement. This will be very hard for her to prove. It’s certainly not uncommon not to give notice of an amendment of a trust. The probate court will look at what is fair and what Lisa Marie wanted. It’s clear what she wanted,” the lawyer said.

If that’s the case, Lisa Marie’s estate plan would prove to be a success.

What are the estate planning options for second homes?

Few people own a property as iconic as Graceland, but many Americans have second homes. If you own a second home, consulting with an experienced estate planning professional is critical. There are several different methods of including a second home in your estate plan. The best option for you and your family will depend on your goals and unique circumstances. Below are three of the most common options for transferring a vacation or rental home.

1. Outright transfers

The first option is to transfer shares of the property to family members outright. The property is transferred to the beneficiary with no strings attached. The beneficiary assumes full ownership of their share of the property. There are different ways to transfer the property, including a transfer-on-death deed or through your will.

The main benefit of an outright transfer is that it is the simplest option. There is little up front cost and no maintenance fees. Despite being the most straightforward method, it is typically the least recommended. Below are three drawbacks of transferring a second home outright.

  • It leaves no structure for the management of the property by the next generation. Your children will have to come up with a plan for the use and management of the property. They will also have to come up with the funds necessary to maintain the property.
  • If the beneficiaries hold the title as tenants in common, each owner will have the right to leave their property to whomever they wish. Furthermore, an owner could force a sale of the property and cause problems for other family members who want to keep the property but are unable to purchase the interest of the family member wanting to sell.
  • An outright transfer leaves the property vulnerable to the creditors of your beneficiaries. Additionally, it could easily end up in the hands of a child’s ex-spouse.

2. Trust

A second option is to leave your property in a trust. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party (trustee) to hold assets for the benefit of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Many different types of trusts can be used to transfer a second home. A common trust used when the property is valuable and the owners want to gift the property all at once is a qualified personal residence trust (QPRT). A QPRT is a type of irrevocable trust that enables the parents to retain use and ownership of the home for a term of years. After the term of years ends, the property is either left outright or continues in trust for the benefit of the next generation.

Tax benefits are the main reason a person would create a QPRT. When you place the property in a QPRT, it effectively removes the value of the second home and all future appreciation from your taxable estate. In 2023, the federal estate tax exemption was $12.92 million. In addition, 12 states impose an estate tax, and six have an inheritance tax.

When you transfer the home to the trust, there is a valuation discount for gift tax reporting purposes. For example, let’s assume the property is worth $600,000. Depending on your age, the interest rates and the retained income period chosen for the QPRT, you could use as little as $100,000 or your lifetime gift tax exemption. As of 2023, the lifetime gift tax exemption is $12.92 million.

In addition to the tax benefits, a QPRT provides asset protection from creditors. It also allows you to continue using the residence rent-free while taking all applicable income tax deductions.

There are some potential negatives to establishing a QPRT. If you do not outlive the QPRT term, you risk losing the transfer tax benefits because the property would be brought back into the grantor’s estate at death. Secondly, it is not as flexible as other options, like an LLC. Since it is an irrevocable trust, the terms of the trust cannot be changed. It should only be considered when the family is confident that they want to keep the property rather than sell it.

3. Family limited liability company

A third option is establishing a family-run limited liability company (LLC). LLC documents include an operating agreement that typically serves as a blueprint for managing the property. Usually, the operating agreement will designate managers of the property (generally members of the LLC) who are empowered to take the following actions:

  • Collecting dues from members.
  • Making decisions about maintenance and repairs.
  • Scheduling the use of the property by the members.
  • Renting the property to third parties to generate income.

The agreement also states the procedure for a member to transfer their interest. It can establish safeguards to ensure that the home does not end up in the hands of unwanted individuals, like a child’s ex-spouse. The operating agreement can be changed at any time to address changed circumstances; thus, this option offers more flexibility than both outright transfers and QPRTs.

Typically, the owner will transfer interest in the LLC to their family members over a period of years using the annual gift tax exclusion. Since the gifted interests only represent a portion of the underlying real estate and there are often restrictions on transferring the interests, reasonable discounts are given in the valuation of the interests. The gift tax exclusion for 2023 is $17,000 per year.

In addition to the tax benefits, it is a helpful tool when the property is located in a different state. Usually, when a deceased individual owned real estate in a different state, their family would have to open an ancillary probate proceeding in the state where the property is located in addition to the probate proceeding of their resident state. However, when the second home is transferred to an LLC, the house is no longer considered “real estate” for probate administration purposes. The family can save time and expense by avoiding ancillary probate.

There are some drawbacks of LLCs to be aware of. The creation requires some upfront costs, and you must file annual partnership income tax returns.

What are the potential estate planning complications with second homes?

Vacation and rental homes present unique estate planning challenges, and like Lisa Marie Presley, it is often one of the most valuable assets in the estate.

1. Do your loved ones want to keep the second home?

Vacation homes usually hold significant sentimental value. For many parents, it’s at the vacation home where the most meaningful family memories are made. They cannot imagine selling the home and assume that their children feel the same way. However, sometimes this is not the case. Your family members may not hold the same attachment to the property. Perhaps, they live far away from the property or want to spend their vacation days traveling to new places.

It is critical to have an upfront discussion with your children or other relatives about whether they want to maintain ownership of the second home. If the next generation does not want to keep the home in the family, it will significantly impact how you incorporate the property in your estate plan.

2. What are your family dynamics?

When giving multiple family members partial ownership of the same piece of property, it is critical to consider family dynamics, especially if you have a blended family. Are there sibling rivalries? How is the relationship between your spouse and children? If you fail to account for family relationships, the property could have the effect of ripping your loved ones apart instead of bringing them together. You need to think about how the property will be shared and who will assume the responsibility of maintaining the property.

3. Is the property located in another country?

If your second home is located outside of the United States, there will be additional complexities. The local laws may be vastly different than the U.S. and can significantly impact how you should estate plan. For example, many countries do not recognize trusts.

How do I create an estate plan?

There are numerous options and scenarios to consider when developing an estate plan that protects your legacy and achieves your objectives, and important decisions should be made with the advice of qualified lawyers and financial experts. Membership with Legacy Assurance Plan provides members with valuable resources and guidance to develop comprehensive estate plans that take life's contingencies into consideration and leave a positive impact for generations to come. Legacy Assurance Plan members also receive peace of mind that a team of trusted, experienced professionals will assist them in developing legal, financial and tax strategies that will meet their needs today and for years to come through periodic reviews.

This article is published by 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 legacyassuranceplan.com.

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