Regular readers of this blog often see articles regarding the latest celebrity whose death created a mess because their Estate Plan failed to properly protect the celebrity’s family and loved ones. It seems that an individual with fame and money could easily avoid that result; however, that’s not always the case. The fallout caused by inadequate Estate Plans of celebrities provides great lessons for Estate Planning practitioners and their clients because the drama unfolds on a public stage. Tragically, Lisa Marie Presley died on January 12, 2023 and her death marks yet another celebrity Estate Plan gone wrong.
Trusts have become ubiquitous parts of estate plans. Many Estate Plans use revocable trusts as the foundation for the plan while others include irrevocable trusts. Regardless of the planning reason, every trust needs a trustee. The grantor may name the beneficiary as trustee, or the grantor may name another individual or entity as trustee, creating a natural tension between the beneficiary and trustee. If the tension becomes too great, the beneficiary may seek to have the trustee removed. As expected, the avenues for removal depend upon the trust instrument itself, as well as any statutory remedies available.
Whenever a client’s Estate Plan deviates from the expected disposition, it raises questions for the slighted beneficiaries. These questions usually revolve around methods to have the plan overturned. Most states give clients tools to protect their carefully crafted plans, even after their death.
Whenever a client’s Estate Plan deviates from the expected disposition, it raises questions. Most of the time, clients have consulted with a competent attorney regarding their reasons for structuring the plan the way that they have. Sometimes, other factors are at play and the plan doesn’t represent the testator’s true wishes, but rather, another individual’s testamentary desire. That’s undue influence and there are ways to guard against it.
With the proliferation of the internet has come a plethora of websites claiming that individuals may take a “Do It Yourself” approach to Estate Planning. While individuals may think that a plan created by one of these companies will meet their needs and save them money, the opposite is true. These plans often fail to contain necessary provisions and usually cost the family more in attorneys’ fees. In addition, a Trusts and Estate practitioner can alert a family to techniques designed to lower the tax burden upon the death of an individual. It’s easy to make costly mistakes if you don’t have an attorney both at the drafting stage and the administration stage of Estate Planning.