The recent passing of a few notable celebrities has shed some light on just how important comprehensive estate planning is for the protection of your estate and loved ones. Many of us know the singing legends, Aretha Franklin and Prince, but you may not have known that both of these superstars passed without a last will and testament or a trust. Designer Kate Spade was going through a divorce at the time of her passing, and Marvel legend Stan Lee’s plan for his multimillion dollar estate is likely to be contested in the coming months. The unfortunate fact is that each of these planning pitfalls likely could have been avoided with careful, organized estate planning.

As always, our goal is to keep you informed about what you and your loved need to know about the estate planning mistakes that could potentially harm you. We want to share with you the negative impacts that the families of Aretha Franklin, Prince, Kate Spade, and Stan Lee are facing due to the celebrities’ failure to create a comprehensive and clear estate plan.

Aretha Franklin

Upon her passing, the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin left four adult children, one with special needs, and a $80 million estate behind. This may be why it was so shocking to learn that she did not have any planning provisions in place. As a result, her children are left unprotected, and her estate is vulnerable to approximately $32 million’s worth of estate taxes. This is one of the reasons why, if you have a special needs child, it is crucial that you consider setting up a special needs trust for them. This type of trust helps to protect your child’s inheritance, as well as any government benefits that he or she may be entitled to.


More than two years have passed since the death of legendary singer, Prince, and his heirs still have not received any funds from his estimated $200 million estate. The reason why, unfortunately, is that the singer did not have any estate planning in place at the time of his death. As a result, Prince’s estate became subject to the probate process, which can drag on for a long time. Especially if anything is contested. It also resulted in his assets becoming a matter of public record (which is how we know about what is happening) and further opening up his estate to estate tax liability. Careful and comprehensive estate planning can help you to avoid dying intestate (which means dying without having created a will or trust) and being subjected to probate proceedings.

Kate Spade

Famous for her colorful clothing and handbag designs, Kate Spade shockingly passed in June of this year. At the time of her death, Kate Spade was legally separated from her husband and going through the process of obtaining a divorce. It is important to know that separation does not mean that your spousal rights are terminated. If you are going through a divorce, we strongly encourage you to update your estate plan under the guidance of your estate planning attorney to reflect your changing circumstances and current wishes.

Stan Lee

The man behind legendary Marvel superheroes such as Spiderman and The Hulk, Stan Lee, sadly passed in November at the age of 95. While many fans will remember the legacy he left behind, unfortunately, his estate plan is likely to be contested by family members and other individuals close to Mr. Lee. Recent reports show that a declaration was filed this year claiming that three men in his “inner circle” were trying to gain control over Mr. Lee’s assets. Unfortunately, this type of elder abuse occurs all too often. To help prevent this type of manipulation, it is important to create a comprehensive estate plan and only name a trustee you trust implicitly to handle your affairs.

We know that this article focused on celebrities, but these scenarios are all too prominent in the lives of the people we talk to on a daily basis whether in Orange County or other places in California. Do not wait to ask us your questions or if you are ready to learn more about how to get started on the estate planning that is right for you and your loved ones.

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