3 March 2022

What can we learn from celebrities who never made a will?

By Yasmin Knock, Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

Celebrities often have professional advisors who look after their business affairs.
However, like many people, sometimes they do not get around to making a will.

When you die without a will, predetermined laws of intestacy decide who should inherit your estate, and while these laws seek to deal with matters in a fair way, they do not consider modern family structures, family dynamics or personal wishes.

Prince’s lesson for philanthropists

Family feuds over who should inherit are harder to settle where there is no will, as the person’s wishes remain unknown. After Prince died, intestacy rules meant that all his assets passed to his siblings, leaving his five half-siblings without a share of his estate.

Had Prince made a will, he might have chosen to make gifts to his half-siblings as well. He may also have chosen to leave legacies to the various charities he gave generously to throughout his lifetime, something which cannot be achieved without a will.

Stieg Larsson’s lesson for unmarried couples

Author Stieg Larsson, who famously wrote the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, died intestate. His vast wealth passed to his father under intestacy, leaving his long-term partner with nothing.

Unmarried couples are not entitled to each other’s estates, regardless of the seriousness or length of the relationship, so the only way to ensure your partner receives any of your assets is to leave them in a will.

Rik Mayall’s lesson in tax planning

Intestacy is often not the best approach when it comes to tax planning. When actor Rik Mayall died intestate, his wealth was subject to a substantial inheritance tax liability that might have been reduced had he planned his affairs during his lifetime.

One of the most important ways to benefit from available tax savings is with a will.

Pablo Picasso’s lesson to save delay and costs

Without a valid will, a complex and extensive estate can be difficult to deal with, resulting in unnecessary delays and high costs.

Whilst an average estate takes around one year to administer, when Pablo Picasso died without a will his estate reportedly took six years to settle and cost approximately $30 million.

Amy Winehouse’s lesson for entrepreneurs

Intestacy rules do not consider the continued management of estate assets like a business or intellectual property such as royalties from music. Amy Winehouse’s intestacy resulted in her £4 million estate being almost entirely depleted within two years of her death after her companies passed into the control of her parents.

A will would have allowed her to appoint an appropriate person to manage the companies on behalf of her beneficiaries to ensure they remained viable assets.

How we can help

We can advise you on how best to pre-empt or manage potential conflicts and how your estate might be affected by various taxes.

For further information, please contact Yasmin Knock in the wills and probate team on 01328 863231 or email yasmin.knock@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.