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2 Unexpected Estate Planning Disasters

Most Massachusetts residents would consider famous and successful people to be the last individuals who would have a problem with their estate plans. However, if you look through the history books, you can find example after example of successful people whose estate plans did not achieve what they were supposed to.

Take U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, for example. Here we have a brilliant legal mind who decided to draft his own will. However, his will had more than one mistake, which left his executor unable to liquidate real estate with first gaining court approval. He also inadvertently subjected his estate to probate. Due to these errors, the man’s family lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses.

Next, let us look at Marlon Brando’s estate. When Brando passed away, his housekeeper make a claim that the actor had verbally bequeathed a San Fernando Valley home to her. Nevertheless, the promise was never codified in a will; it was just a verbal promise. Unfortunately, an oral promise is not sufficient to hold up in court — especially if there is no one around to substantiate that promise. If Brando really wanted to give the home to his housekeeper, it would have been more appropriate to amend his estate plan with this information.

The example of the Supreme Court justice goes to show you that even a brilliant lawyer may not have the specialized legal experience and skill necessary to create an effective estate plan. In the case of Brando, we are faced with a reminder of how vital it is to continually update our estate planning documents.

Source:, “Kenneth Petersen, Financial Planning: Estate planning failures of the rich and famous” Kenneth Petersen, Mar. 04, 2015

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