Like many of us, celebrities and famous icons through history have failed to make wills. Perhaps out of the superstition that it will tempt fate. Perhaps because they haven’t got round to it. No doubt in some cases, simply because they weren’t expecting to die so soon. Whatever the cause, those dying intestate include everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Pablo Picasso to the most recently reported; Prince. If you die intestate (without making a will) you can make an upsetting time even harder for your loved ones. The absence of a will could lead to family disputes, exes inheriting and those you love most being left in the cold. Below we look at a few examples of famous names who have failed to make a will, and the sticky situations they left behind.
Martin Luther King Jr:
When Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, he hadn’t got round to making a will. Granted, he’d been busy with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, his march on Washington where he famously declared “I have a dream…” and winning the Nobel Peace prize (to name just a handful of his accomplishments). But given the great number of death threats he received, it is surprising that he never made a will- so what was the result? It took six years to settle his estate. Since then, his children have gone through 5 court battles in 10 years and 3 siblings who aren’t talking to each other. It seems Martin Luther King Jr’s children didn’t share his passion for peace.
Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Guitarist Ever”, Jimi Hendrix, could play Purple Haze with his guitar behind his head but he died at 27 without a last will and testament… 34 years later, the court battles were still going strong. Jimi Hendrix had two illegitimate children who were denied any inheritance making Al Hendrix the sole heir. After further litigation with record companies and recording studios, matters were once again thrown to the courts to determine, when Al Hendrix died and left Jimi Hendrix’s estate to his adopted daughter, exclusive of his other children.
Stieg Larsson, was author of in the Millennium Trilogy, made famous by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The journalist died in 2004, before his work gained the world wide recognition it deserved. Despite threats to his life during his anti-right wing journalism career, Larsson never made a will. Due to Swedish law’s refusal to acknowledge common law marriage, his partner of 32 years was denied any part of his estate with Larsson’s father and brother gaining complete control.
Bob Marley died a musical legend, but he never made a will due to his religion. Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Marley had no belief in death, as part of his Rastafarian beliefs. This left a mess for his 11 children by different mothers and a $30million estate with multiple claimants.
Although a will was later discovered, after Michael Jackson’s death, his mother immediately filed to say that he had never made a will. The later discovered will was then battled over in court between those left out of it, before being upheld.
Heath Ledger did in fact have a will, but his failure to update it after the birth of his daughter Matilda left her frozen out of inheritance.
There are many more examples such as the ones above and it’s not only important for those with multi million pound estates. Failure to make a will, even for modest savings and the family home can cause confusions, stress and costly legal battles for the ones you love. Protect your family, make an appointment with one of our Wills and Probate solicitors. We can support you through the process of writing a will, giving you peace of mind that your wishes are carried out, should the worst happen.
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