There’s a story that estate planners have been telling clients for years about the need for people to have at least the basic documents (a will) of an estate plan prepared, just in case. Here’s how it goes… James Dean was an actor in the 1950’s. He starred in movie classics such as Rebel without a CauseGiant, and East of Eden. James was raised by his aunt and uncle after he was abandoned by his father as a baby and he had no relationship with his father by the time that he became a star. Dean’s movie career was cut short in 1955 when he was tragically killed in a car crash, creating the pop culture legend of James Dean that still survives 60 years later.

Dean’s estate generates approximately $1-3 million annually through the licensing of his likeness on merchandise and in commercials. That’s about $120 million dollars over the past 60 years. And who owns the rights to his likeness and runs his estate? His father, not the aunt and uncle who raised him since he was a baby. Why? Because when Dean died back in 1955 he had no estate plan, not even a will, and he died intestate. Under California and most States’ intestate laws, Dean’s father (as his closest living blood relative) was entitled to the estate. How fair was that?

But that was 60 years ago, surely people have learned from Dean’s mistake, especially celebrities with a high net worth. Wrong. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Oscar winner for his title role in Capote, passed away earlier this year and because he didn’t have an updated estate plan, two of his three children will be left out of inheriting their portion of his estimated $35 million estate. So even though he had an estate plan, he never updated the plan, and because of that two of his children may get nothing.

Protect your family, protect your loved ones, protect your assets, protect yourself. If it can happen to movie stars who are surrounded by lawyers, managers, agents, accountants, and assistants, then it can happen to you. But it doesn’t have to happen to anyone. A properly planned and updated estate plan will help you avoid costly mistakes like Dean’s and Hoffman’s.

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HighPoint Law Offices PC

At HighPoint Law Offices we support individuals, families, and businesses of all backgrounds with estate planning services that address their unique wishes, goals, and challenges.

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