When we’re flicking through glossy magazines and nosing into the private lives of the rich and famous or watching a Hollywood blockbuster on the telly, we assume that these ‘perfect’ people lead the perfect life; huge bank balances, luxury mansions, private jets, A-list friends and loved ones who want for nothing. I guess largely that’s true…until these superstars die without leaving a Will.
You only have to do a quick Google search and you will soon find out that celebs like Prince, Aretha Franklin, Barry White, James Brown, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and even Abraham Lincoln, who was actually a brilliant lawyer as well as 16th President of the USA, all died without leaving a Will, causing no end of issues and legal battles for the ones they left behind.
The most recent Hollywood star to die without leaving a Will is ‘Black Panther’ lead actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman who passed away aged 43 in August 2020 from colon cancer. Although Chadwick had suffered from this awful disease for 4 years and knew that his diagnoses was terminal, he still didn’t make a Will to protect his assets and family. It is still unclear as to why he never made a Will, which could have saved his family a lot of unwanted stress and even more heartache.
So what about our home-grown celebrities here in the UK?
Probably the most famous example we have is Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning at the tender age of 27 back in 2011. At the time of her death she was divorced, so had no spouse nor any children and her estate was eventually awarded to her parents. But that wasn’t the end of it.
In 2019, 8 years after Amy’s death, her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil made a £1.4 million claim on her estate saying that she wrote most of her best material whilst they were still together – even though he spent the majority of their short marriage in prison. He unsuccessfully demanded a lump hefty sum and a monthly allowance payment even though he openly admitted introducing an already-troubled Amy to heroin; absolutely heart breaking for her parents to have to deal with. In this instance, we can probably understand why Amy had no Will as she was young and at the height of her global success, but professional estate planning would have certainly protected her assets when needed, just showing you’re never too young to start planning.
Comedy genius Rik Mayall died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 2014 after returning home from his daily jog; a simple, routine activity that proved to be his last at the age of 56. Our much-loved Harlow-born stand-up comedian, actor and writer, responsible for many cult classic sitcoms including The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents, Blackadder, Filthy Rich & Catflap, and Believe Nothing left behind an estate worth £1.2 million and his wife Barbara and their 3 children. It seemed that organising a Will was on his busy to-do list but that’s the one thing he never got around to writing.
As Rik died without leaving a Will, his assets pass in accordance with the laws of ‘intestacy’ (the legal set of rules which dictate who will receive your estate if you do not have a Will in place) and potentially some of his estate that was not held in joint names with his wife could have passed to blood relatives, leaving Barbara in a vulnerable position. Thankfully by being married, she had a rightful claim. But, what happens if you aren’t married, but in a relationship?
How could any of us forget Jill Dando, who was shot and killed on the doorstep of her own home in London in 1999? Aged just 37, Jill was one of our greatest newsreaders with the BBC and popular TV host on Holiday and ironically, Crimewatch. After spending the night with her fiancé, Alan Farthing, she returned home, was grabbed from behind, forced to the ground, then shot in the head with a 9mm calibre semi-automatic pistol; her murder shocked the nation. Jill died without leaving a Will, so the intestacy rules prevailed and because she hadn’t yet wed Alan, everything she owned which totalled £607k after debts and tax went to her Dad as her blood relative. Her fiancé who she was due to marry later that year, received nothing and had no rightful claim on her assets.
You may not be a global superstar or a home-grown TV celebrity, but it is so important to write a Will and not put it off for another day. By making sure your affairs are in order, means that you can provide for your loved ones without the added stress of creating bad blood and ensuing legal battles.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you have nothing to leave, you’d be surprised what assets you do accumulate over the years. Don’t think that it’s too expensive either, all you have to pay for is the Will writing as all other legal costs come out of your estate when the time comes. There really is no greater way to spend your money now than giving your family and loved ones complete peace of mind, after you’ve gone.
If you’d like to find out more about protecting your assets through Wills, estate planning and trusts or explore the benefits of pre-paid funeral plans, contact Sue Byrne for a free no obligation chat and see how we can help you.