Who says an estate plan has to be dull? The following list includes some of the most prolific celebrity estate plans to grace the channels of probate court. Many of these celebrities left sizable posthumous reminders of their larger-than-life personas. Whether via trust, endowment or bequest, the following celebrity estates have given surviving loved ones and fans a lasting souvenir of their famous owner’s life, legacy and contribution to others:
#5 – Steve Jobs
At the time of his death, Steve Jobs’ estimated net worth topped $7 billion, with a large chunk of that wealth tied up in Disney stock shares. While the true extent and complexity of Jobs’ estate plan has not been publicly revealed, sources have confirmed he used a network of living trusts, charitable bequests and real property transfers to avoid the looming 35 percent estate tax. Much like his life, however, Jobs preferred to keep everything as private as possible and worked diligently to master an estate plan that would avoid public disclosure in probate court.
#4 – Elizabeth Taylor
Hollywood beauty Elizabeth Taylor strived to execute an uncomplicated, straightforward estate plan to avoid overly burdening her family. Since no estate for the starlet was ever opened in probate court, Taylor presumably relied on trusts and other non-probate asset transfers to effectuate her goals. According to industry insiders, Taylor is believed to have left her entire fortune to her children and grandchildren, as well as several charities, including a significant donation to benefit AIDS research.
#3 – Frank Sinatra
‘Ol Blue Eyes not only crooned his way into America’s hearts but also left a telltale legacy in a detailed last will and testament which covered nearly every immediate family member with a sizable and generous bequest. Sinatra made sure his cherished sheet music collection went to his son Frank Jr. while his Rolls Royce and Mercedes were expressly left to his then-wife Barbara.
Sinatra also included a ‘no-contest clause,’ which is common in both large estate plans and large families, as both can incentivize a disgruntled family member to make a claim against an otherwise settled estate plan. According to Sinatra’s wishes, anyone who attempted to raise a challenge against his last will and testament would be immediately disinherited, regardless of the outcome of the claim.
#2 – Philip Seymour Hoffman
In a departure from the typical bequests of personal and real property, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman left very specific, heartwarming instructions to the surviving guardian of his beloved children, his lifelong partner and co-parent Mimi O’Donnell.
In an attempt to shield his children from the underworld of Hollywood and the vulnerabilities that can plague professional actors, Hoffman’s estate plan included a directive that his children be raised in a city with art, culture and architecture, which Hoffman specifically described as Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco. His directions further addressed the scenario in which his children could not actually live in one of these places. In that case, it was his strong desire for them to visit at least twice per year.
#1 – Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley continues to reign king in more ways than one, as his estate is regularly ranked as one of the top earners each year, bringing in millions annually. Loyal fans marked another anniversary of the King’s death by flocking in the thousands to his Graceland property, appropriately situated in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee. Complete with a candlelight vigil, Elvis’s life and legacy were remembered during the weeklong annual Elvis Week.
Fortunately for the family, much of Elvis’s estate has been memorialized in the Graceland museum and tourist attractions, which bring in close to 500,000 guests annually. While Graceland fortunately survived the tentacles of state and federal estate taxes, largely due to proper management by Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, Elvis’s actual gross estate at his time of death was $10 million, of which $3.4 million succumbed to Uncle Sam.