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Celebrity Role Models: Estate Planning Edition


When celebrities pass away, we reflect on their life’s work and commemorate the legacy they’ve left behind. But with millions of dollars in net worth, it’s not just their legacy that lives on. Granted, most celebrity estates are grander in scale than our own, but there’s still much to be learned from their Estate Planning. Here are a few important lessons celebrities have taught us about Estate Planning:

Joan Rivers

A trailblazer for female comediennes, Joan Rivers made sure there was no funny business with her Estate Planning. Instead, she ensured that all her loved ones would be taken care of. She left most of her $150 million estate to her only daughter, Melissa, and grandson, Cooper. As for her furry loved ones? She set up Pet Trusts for all four of her bicoastal dogs. Such trusts allow you to name the caretakers, make detailed arrangements about how you want your pets to be treated, and put money in a trust to be used during the pets’ lives.

Robin Williams

Celebrities have the disadvantage of being scrutinized by the public eye—during and after their lives. Robin Williams wisely secured at least one Living Trust, or a revocable trust, for the major portion of his estate to avoid any complications and tax risks—saving his loved ones public headache and stress during such a sensitive time. Unlike Wills, which most people think as the be-all and end-all of Estate Planning, Living Trusts help keep your private documents private. Also, Living Trusts are not subject to the probate process, which helps your loved ones avoid a long and arduous experience, especially if you live in California. Other advantages of a Living Trust are (1) control over how and when your beneficiaries will receive your assets, and (2) ability to change your estate plan without the formality of a Will.

Paul Walker

70 percent of Americans with children under 18 don’t have a Will. In contrast to these startling statistics, Paul Walker had already established a Living Trust at the age of 40. He made sure that his sole beneficiary, his 15-year-old daughter Meadow Walker, would be taken care of by naming his mother as the guardian and caretaker. Walker made the responsible decision to create a Living Trust for his daughter while giving a poignant final life lesson: You’re never too young to start your Estate Planning.

During their lives, Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, and Paul Walker have entertained us by helping us forget about our everyday worries, at least for a brief moment. But their deaths have also shed light on important practical issues that very few of us mull over: What will happen to my pets? Will my loved ones be subjected to the probate process? Is my underage daughter going to be taken care of until she’s able to fend for herself? Your net worth may pale in comparison with these celebrities’ but the important lesson here is to make sure your loved ones will be okay when you are gone. And whether you’re a celebrity or not, that’s something we all have in common.

Want to learn more?

If you’re new to Estate Planning, we have an easy-to-read Estate Planning Guide that’ll help better acquaint you with the whole subject and process. And if you still have any questions or concerns, you can Ask a Lawyer and get an answer within one business day.

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