Celebrity Estates

It really is important to give some thought and time to creating your estate plan.  Even more important, however, than agonizing for hours, days, months, and even years over exactly the correct terms and language – is that you get some sort of plan in place.  Most estate planning can be modified at any time you like.  So get it right now and get it perfect later.

You’re never too young to heed this advice, as was demonstrated by the estate of the late Amy Winehouse.  The much beloved songstress was found dead in her London home at only 27 years of age.  Like so many people in their 20s and 30s, Ms. Winehouse had not prepared an estate plan.  That left her family to sort out her affairs with no guidance from her.

While Amy died in July of 2011, it was the end of March 2012 before we knew to whom her estate would pass.  Mitch Winehouse, Amy’s father, had to pursue administration of her estate without the benefit of knowing her wishes.  He is now in the process of settling her $6.7 million estate and over $2 million in debts.  She’d already divorced her late husband Blake Fiedler-Civil and so nothing wound up going to him.

The family has recently had to list her multimillion dollar luxury villa in London for sale.  Per a family spokesperson, “The Winehouses have decided to put the house on the market, with great regret. Amy loved that house but none of the family felt it appropriate that they should live in it.”

The bulk of Amy’s estate will, reportedly, go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, “to support charitable activities in both the UK and abroad that provide help, support or care for young people, especially those who are in need by reason of ill health, disability, financial disadvantage or addiction.”

This is a beautiful tribute to the memory of talented vocalist but it’s only come in to being through the tireless efforts of parents who loved and cared about her.  Those parents are forced to fight their way through the probate process and to craft this foundation without the benefit of Amy’s guidance – a process certainly made much more challenging by the grief of parents who’ve outlived their child.  Without such dedicated parents, and with an ex-spouse who is a bit more contentious, this could have been a probate nightmare for everyone involved.

Even if you are not an award-winning singer or a wealthy person, it is important that you put your wishes down on paper in a legally-enforceable way to give those you leave behind the care and guidance Amy was not able to give her family.

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