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Billionaire's cancer diagnosis leads to estate planning questions

The reason for having an estate plan in place is to make sure that your wishes are accurately conveyed after your death. For many people, this is a bit of a guessing game: We don't know how much time we have left. We have to make the arrangements well in advance so that when the time comes, there is no debate about our will or what our intentions might have been.

Sometimes, however -- for better or worse -- we get an idea of how much time we have left. Most of us would probably choose to go about our business in a private way, but sometimes, people have a public outlet that lets them notify the rest of us about what's happening in their lives and with their health.

One such person is Richard Mellon Scaife. Observant readers might recognize his middle name; the Mellon family amassed a huge fortune in banking and industry. Scaife himself owns the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a daily newspaper in that city. The 81-year-old recently wrote a column in that paper revealing that he had been diagnosed with a form of cancer that is not treatable.

Scaife, whose fortune is estimated to be nearly $1.5 billion, undoubtedly has well-developed plans in place. Not everyone does, however, which can lead to battles over family members when it comes down to the distribution of assets. People who are experiencing difficulty in this area often consult with experienced attorneys, who can help guide them through what can be a difficult process.

Source: Forbes, "Richard Scaife, Newspaper Billionaire and Andrew Mellon Heir, Has Untreatable Cancer," Abram Brown, May 18, 2014

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