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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Celebrities who did not leave wills instead left estate fights

Minnesota residents may have heard of famous people like the artist Pablo Picassso and rock stars Sonny Bono, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. While these people may seem like they have nothing in common with Abraham Lincoln and eccentric businessman Howard Hughes, in fact they all have one common bond: they all died without leaving a will.

For some of these people, it seemed to be of a little consequence that they did not have a final legal document dictating either how they wanted to have their estates handled following their death or who the beneficiaries of their fortunes would be. The lawful heirs of these people seemed to have been able to smooth out their differences and distribute property even without the guidance of a will.

For others on this list, however, the lack of a will contributed to significant probate litigation after their deaths. Litigation lasted for six years before Picasso's wealth could be finalized to the tune of $30 million in costs and legal fees. However, this pales in comparison to the three-decade battle that ensued following Hendrix's death.

Experts estimate that over two-thirds of young adults in the United States, including those in Minnesota, do not have a will. Although people more advanced in years tend to create and maintain their wills, 40 percent of the people in this age group still do not have a will.

While wills can go a long way in reducing litigation in a high-dollar estate, squabbles can happen following the death of someone of modest means. Moreover, wills frequently allow a parent to recommend or even appoint a guardian for minor children, preventing emotional custody battles that could only make the lives of grieving family members more difficult.

Making a will is an important first step in preventing probate litigation. However, sometimes a will does not prevent a dispute after a person's death.

Source: Liberty Voice, "Top ten famous people without wills," Jim McCullaugh, Feb. 19, 2014

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