Learn an estate planning lesson from Marilyn Monroe

Published 14 Aug 2013

Between the films, rumours and photos, Marilyn Monroe certainly made an indelible mark on the world, and her legacy will likely live on for decades to come.

Unfortunately, her will wasn’t firmed up as solidly as her reputation after her untimely death at the age of 36. Had Ms Monroe taken the time to look into her options, the items, property and other inheritances she left behind likely would have been dealt with differently.

When Ms Monroe passed, she left the bulk of her personal items to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach. Although she may not have fully grasped the fame and adulation she would receive posthumously, Ms Monroe likely had some idea that her personal effects would rise in value over time.

Considering Mr Strasberg lived another 20 years after Ms Monroe’s death, and then left his estate – including Ms Monroe’s items – to his third wife, there was likely a better estate planning option.

For example, instead of leaving her items to Mr Strasberg, she could have set up a testamentary trust. This option would have allowed her to name her acting coach as the beneficiary of the trust, but it wouldn’t have stopped there.

She could have used such an estate plan to ensure that Strasberg was the only beneficiary, and had more control of where her estate went after his passing.

Marilyn’s not alone

There are countless examples of individuals with fame and fortune whose wills were either not thoroughly completed or even ill-advised. Leona Helmsley, who made a name for herself as a US businesswoman, left $12 million in a trust to ensure her dog was cared for after she died.

However, her two grandchildren, who were left out of the will entirely, found themselves nothing. They made the decision to contest a will, which allowed them to successfully lower the dog’s inheritance to $2 million, and the rest went to them.

Though an extreme example, this shows what can happen when a will is contested by those who feel they were not given enough. Contesting wills lawyers can help any family member get what he or she believes is entitled to them.

When planning a will, it’s imperative not to glance over important factors that could decide the fate of your inheritance, rather than you alone.

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