Match The Celebrity To The Estate Planning Mistake

Nobody is immune from estate planning mistakes, not even wealthy and successful celebrities and politicians. Let’s see if you can match the mistake to the right celebrity.

1. Failing to create your own estate plan means the state probate laws will determine what is done with your assets, who will take care of your children, and who will be empowered to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Which of these celebrities unexpectedly died without a will?

A. Prince
B. Sonny Bono
C. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
D. All of the above

2. Estate plans need to be updated based on changes in your life. Which celebrity died in the middle of a bitter divorce before excluding his estranged wife from his estate, leaving his heirs to fight it out in probate court?

A. Paul Newman
B. John Wayne
C. Dennis Hopper
D. Burt Lancaster

3. Modern families can be blended or in other nontraditional forms. These families add a layer of complexity that makes planning especially important. Which famous author died without a will, leaving nothing to his lifelong partner of 30 years?

A. Stieg Larsson
B. J.D. Salinger
C. John Updike
D. Saul Bellow

4. Your estate plan should include language that protects assets when your heir is facing a crisis, such as addiction, lawsuit, or divorce. The children of which celebrity performer will receive mandatory payments at set ages, regardless of extenuating circumstances that might make those payments unwise?

A. Michael Jackson
C. Steve McNair
D. Bob Marley

5. Do-it-yourself wills often fall short of meeting the individual and personalized needs of heirs and can cause unnecessary financial and emotional risk. Even professionals can make mistakes when preparing their own estate plan. Which Supreme Court Justice drafted his own will and caused his family to pay $450,000 in taxes that could have been avoided?

A. Antoine Scalia
B. William Renquist
C. Oliver Wendell Holmes
D. Warren Burger

1. D. Despite having a large estate, celebrities are no more likely to have an estate plan than ordinary people. Because of the large amount of money and future income, these estates are often bitterly fought over by potential heirs, creditors, and others seeking to benefit from the estate.
2. C. Actor, filmmaker, and artist Dennis Hopper died of cancer in 2010, just four months after filing for divorce. His estranged wife and the actor’s two children from previous marriages fought bitterly over the inheritance.
3. A. Swedish author Stieg Larsson died unexpectedly just prior to the publication of his three-book series “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The book went on to be an international best seller with multiple movies made in Sweden and Hollywood. Like California, Sweden does not recognize common-law marriage. So without a will, his lifelong partner received nothing from his estate. Instead, his father and brother were his heirs.
4. A. According to Michael Jackson’s estate plan, his children will receive mandatory payouts based on their age. These payouts are certain to be massive. A smarter option might have been to include discretionary language so that the money could be held in trust if one of the children was not in an ideal position to receive it.
5. D. Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger served on the Supreme Court from 1969 to 1986. His will was just one page and was drafted personally. Had he consulted an estate planning attorney, his estate could have eliminated the unnecessary taxes for his heirs.


This quiz was inspired by the Gustavus Adolphus College celebrity estate planning quiz.

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