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Celebrities offer do's and don'ts of estate planning

Many of the estate planning stories we end up reading about are regarding celebrities. In many cases, this is because celebrities have large estates by virtue of successful careers in the entertainment industry. Wealthy celebrities might also have a large circle of friends and associates -- many of whom might be expecting a piece of the estate for themselves.

Some celebrities handle this better than others. Some are very specific when it comes to beneficiaries, while others leave ambiguous instructions that generate lawsuits and ill will among friends and associates. At any rate, people who aren't movie stars might be able to apply what they learn from some of the cases we're discussing in today's post.

Philip Seymour Hoffman laid out very specific instructions in his will about his children's upbringing. In the actor's will, he expressed a strong desire for his kids to be raised in one of three cities -- New York, Chicago or San Francisco -- or at least to visit them frequently in order to take in the culture and arts each has to offer.

On the negative side, actor Marlon Brando's estate was the subject of at least 25 lawsuits in the years after his death. Many of these were due to the fact that former employees said that Brando had made promises to them that they would receive certain items or funds after his death. However, his written wishes contained no such instructions.

There is a lot that can go wrong with estate planning, but there's also a lot that can go right. Finding a trustworthy estate planning attorney can help put you on the path to the latter result.

Source: Forbes, "Oscar Winners Teach Five Lessons On Estate Planning," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, March 2, 2014

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