You may have heard about the recent passing of celebrities Aretha Franklin, Prince, Kate Spade, and Stan Lee. While the loss of these celebrities has made national news lately, the reason why may surprise you. Each of these celebrities passed with either no estate plan in place or lack of clear direction for the distribution of their assets. As a result, the families of these celebrities are facing a period of uncertainty and confusion in an already difficult time. Unfortunately, this could have been avoided by discussing and implementing a comprehensive estate plan ahead of time.

Our goal is to educate you about common estate planning mistakes, so you can help ensure that your loved ones are not left vulnerable in the event of your passing. This is why we want to share with you some of the lessons that can be learned from the lack of clear and organized estate planning by a few notable celebrities.

Aretha Franklin

Many of us know who the “Queen of Soul” is, but did you know that Aretha Franklin passed away in August of this year without an estate plan? Unfortunately, she left behind four adult children, including one child with special needs, and an $80 million estate with no protections in place. If you have a special needs child, it is important that you consult with an estate planning attorney about setting up a special needs trust for him or her. By creating this type of trust, you can help ensure your child’s inheritance and government benefits are protected after your passing.

Kate Spade

It was a surprise to many when legendary designer, Kate Spade, unexpectedly passed away this year. When she passed, Kate Spade was separated from her husband and going through a divorce. Many people do not know that being legally separated does not mean that your spousal rights cease to exist. This is why, if you are in the process of obtaining a divorce, it is crucial that you account for upcoming changes in your planning documents.


Legendary singing icon, Prince, is another example of a celebrity who passed with no estate planning in place. The singer left his $200 million estate vulnerable to estate tax liability and more than two years after his death, his heirs still have not received any funds from his estate. Currently, his assets are tied up in probate proceedings, and the specifics of his estate are now considered a matter of public record. To preserve privacy and avoid dying intestate, it is crucial to have a comprehensive estate plan in place.

Stan Lee

Recently, Marvel legend, Stan Lee, passed at the age of 94. Unfortunately, since his passing, reports have suggested he was a victim of financial elder abuse, with claims that people close to him were trying to gain access to his money. Additionally, Stan Lee’s sole heir, his daughter JC, is argued to be financially irresponsible. As a result, Stan Lee’s estate is likely to be contested and subjected to lengthy and costly litigation. Although this type of manipulation can never be fully prevented, the likelihood may be able to be reduced or avoided by naming someone you trust as your trustee and ensuring that your estate plan is kept current with your attorney.

These are just a few of the estate planning lessons that we can learn from celebrities. One of the best ways to ensure that your estate plan is not vulnerable to these planning pitfalls is to discuss your goals and needs with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you are ready to get started on your estate plan, do not wait to reach out to our office.