Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
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Avoiding high-profile estate planning issues

The estate planning practices of many celebrities can serve as a guideline for what New York residents should not do. Unfortunately, lots of celebrities do not create wills, trusts or other key estate documents. This leads to their assets being tied up in years of litigation after they pass away. It was originally reported that Aretha Franklin, the famed singer who passed away in August 2018, did not have a will. Her estate has been in probate court since her death.

Now, three different handwritten wills have been found and filed with the court in an attempt to determine if any of them represent her legally expressed wishes. Because there was no clear will, a significant amount of her estate is being consumed by legal fees as well as exacerbating family conflicts over the future of the money. In the end, the probate court will distribute her estate, but the results may be dramatically different from what she would have wanted. All estate owners, even those with relatively few assets, can help to prevent similar outcomes by preparing for the future.

A formalized will developed with a lawyer is often the first step toward developing a clear estate plan. Even after the estate owner makes a will, they should check back in the future. It may need to be updated to account for life changes as well as changes to estate and tax law.

A will is only the first step in the process of creating a comprehensive estate plan, especially for individuals with significant assets. An estate planning lawyer can work with a client to develop key documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney.

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