Celebrity Wills

Mr Robert Monahan, a Senior Estate Planner with Australian Executor Trustees’, said many principles used by celebrities when drawing up their Wills also could be applied in far more routine circumstances for everyday Australians.

“Even though the value of the Estate may vary by millions of dollars, there are still many important lessons to be drawn from the best and worst celebrity Wills.’

One of the most common flaws with Wills is that they were not kept up to date and the Will of Diana, Princess of Wales, clearly illustrated the impact this oversight can have on family members.

Despite advice to the contrary, Diana did not revise her Will following her divorce from Charles in 1996. As a result, her Will was somewhat out of date when she died unexpectedly a year later. Diana’s initial Will was rather general and gave virtually no instructions in regards to her intellectual property rights, which are now extremely valuable. The potential tax ramifications of this could have been monumental and her main beneficiaries, Prince William and Prince Harry, could have been denied access to many millions of pounds.

Luckily the executors of Diana’s Will agreed to make some variations following her death to ensure her Estate was distributed as she would have wished.

Ideally, people should review their Will every few years, even if it is only to make sure it still reflects their objectives and wishes. While Diana’s initial Will did not reflect her true wishes, Elvis Presley and members of the Kennedy family, however, were obviously more mindful of the potential value of intellectual property rights and had their Wills drawn up as such. The Wills of Elvis and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were ahead of their time and made very specific reference to intellectual property.”

Also in contrast to Diana, Australian mining magnate Lang Hancock was extremely diligent in updating his Will. Hancock’s Will, a 36-page document, was regularly updated right up until February 1992, less than two months before his death. Lang was quite specific with his request and even introduced a ‘no-contest’ clause in an attempt to prevent any in-fighting among family members.

Renowned Australian artist Brett Whiteley, who had a well-known aversion to lawyers, opted to write his own Will and had it witnessed by his daughter and her boyfriend.

The Will was misplaced and a battle for Whiteley’s Estate ended up being fought out in the courts. Not having a Will is like throwing a deck of cards in the air. It is almost impossible to predict what will happen. There are also many cases where home-made Wills have cost relatively small estates tens of thousands of dollars.

Australian Executor Trustees offers a variety of information about, investment management, estate planning and administration, superannuation, accountancy and trustee services.
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