It might seem like the rich and famous live in a different world sometimes, but they actually have a lot in common with average Joes. This is especially true when it comes to estate planning. The estate values of celebrities and business moguls might be larger, but the family dramas and legal disputes are all too familiar. In fact, the average person can learn a few important estate planning lessons from the rich and famous.

Family Members Don’t Always Get Along

If you have children, you probably want them to get along. Unfortunately, family members don’t always see eye to eye, and when estates are involved, disputes can get serious fast.

Just look at the estate of Germano “Jim” and Veva Hasslocher, the founders of Jim’s Restaurant. According to My San Antonio, the Hasslochers left behind five children. Now two daughters are suing their brother over allegations that he has used company funds on himself, among other claims, and that they haven’t received anything.

In some cases, disputes over estates occur because the decedent passed away without making their wishes are unclear. This may not be the situation here. My San Antonio says the Hasslochers wrote a letter in 2002 that laid out their succession plans.

Without knowing all the details of the estate planning documents, it’s impossible to comment on this case specifically. However, there is still at least one good takeaway. Sibling disputes over estates can get ugly, so it’s important to make sure your estate plan is crystal clear and ironclad.

Blended Families Can Make Estate Planning More Complicated

All families have their share of conflict and drama. However, blended families can be especially complicated, especially when estate planning is involved. Relatives may try (or pretend) to get along for the sake of a shared loved one, but when that person is gone and money is on the table, disputes can get intense.

When Robin Williams passed away in 2014, he left behind a widow and three children from two different marriages. He also left behind an estate plan that allowed his widow to stay in their home for the rest of her life while leaving other assets to his children. However, Forbes reports that a legal battle quickly followed over disagreements regarding some of the terms in the estate planning documents. According to Rolling Stone, the legal battle was settled after eight months.

Some estate battles drag on much longer. Some can even go on for years. Having an estate plan can make the probate process much easier and faster and help avoid contentious legal disputes. However, when blended families and strong emotions are involved, things can get complicated.

Promises Can Lead to Disputes

People make a lot of promises with the best of intentions. Keeping those promises isn’t always possible, however, especially when untimely deaths are involved.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in 2020. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sofia Urbieta Laine filed a lawsuit against her daughter, Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s wife. Laine claimed that she had worked as a personal assistant and nanny for the Bryants for years without pay and that Kobe Bryant had promised to support Laine financially. The lawsuit also alleged that Vanessa Bryant was taking steps to cancel the promises made by Kobe Bryant.

The Los Angeles Times says that the lawsuit has been settled but the terms of the settlement are unknown. There are many things the public does not know about this case, but there is an important takeaway. After a person’s death, he-said-she-said battles can ensue if anything’s not put in writing and made official.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

One of the biggest and most common estate planning mistakes is not making an estate plan at all.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to benefit from solid estate planning. Make sure your wishes are known with solid estate and incapacity planning. In addition to a will, you may need to set up revocable or irrevocable trusts to ensure that your wishes are carried out. An advance directive is another important estate planning tool.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine how to structure your estate to avoid potential pitfalls and disputes. Contact us to get started on your estate plan.