Which 2017 celebrity deaths could have led to will disputes?

Published 05 Apr 2018

Author: Garbis Kolokossian

Celebrities often leave behind estates worth millions of dollars when they die, which can lead to will disputes between surviving loved ones.

Some stars may have left family members out of a will or simply neglected to write down their testamentary intentions at all. Others add quirky clauses into their will that prevent beneficiaries from inheriting assets unless they fulfil certain expectations.

We've reviewed the last wishes of three famous faces who passed away in 2017. Here are the reasons their estates could be disputed in the future.

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

The British socialite died aged just 45 in February last year, with her sister later stating she succumbed to a perforated ulcer and peritonitis.

Palmer-Tomkinson wrote a will in 2004 that bequeathed her $4.2 million fortune to her future children once they reached 25, according to the Sun newspaper. Sadly, she passed away before having kids and her estate was instead distributed to her siblings.

In NSW, leaving assets to people who don't exist or have died may invalidate a will. This could lead to intestacy or partial intestacy, resulting in will disputes between surviving relatives.

Hugh Hefner

The 91-year-old Playboy founder had an estimated $73 million fortune when he died in September. Originally, media reports suggested that his wife, Crystal, would not receive anything from his will due to a ironclad prenuptial agreement they signed before marriage.

If this were the case, the 31-year-old former playmate could have pursued an inheritance dispute in an effort to overturn the prenup. However, TMZ said sources from Hefner's estate confirmed he left his spouse $6.4 million and a 5,900 square foot property in Hollywood Hills.

The remainder of his wealth will apparently be distributed to his four children, although Hefner has rules in place that prevent any beneficiaries from receiving money if they become dependent on alcohol or drugs.

Bruce Forsyth

Legendary entertainer Sir Bruce Forsyth had a TV career spanning nearly 80 years in the UK, earning him a Guinness World Record for his on-screen longevity.

Sir Bruce was worth approximately $30 million when he died aged 89 in August, but the TV host was a vocal protestor of Britain's inheritance tax. By leaving his fortune to his third wife, Wilnelia Merced, he was able to avoid handing over a sizable chunk of his assets to the tax man, according to the Daily Star.

This means Sir Bruce's six children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren technically received nothing from his estate. Leaving children out of a will is a common cause of will disputes in Australia.

However, we should mention there are no inheritance tax laws in the country, so the above situation is unlikely. Ms Merced can also transfer up to $1.1 million to Sir Bruce's relatives as a tax-free gift, so it's unlikely his children will be disinherited.

Would you like to learn more about estate planning and inheritance disputes in Australia? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers.

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