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Love Hurts, Especially if You're Famous

Relationships are a complicated business, but they become even more complicated when millions of dollars are at stake.

Consider these three examples of celebrities whose estates suffered at the mercy of Cupid's arrows. Here are the facts:

Stieg Larsson
  • Swedish author of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
  • Died in 2004, years before any of the books were published
  • Did not have a will, so Larsson's property, including the rights to his wildly popular novels, went to his father and his brother
  • Larsson's girlfriend of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, had no legal rights to their shared apartment or property
  • Gabrielsson has a laptop she shared with Larsson that contains a fourth, unpublished manuscript
  • Dispute between Larsson's family and Gabrielsson is becoming increasingly nasty

J. Seward Johnson
  • Heir to the Johnson & Johnson health care and pharmaceutical fortune, estimated at $500 million
  • Died of cancer in 1987
  • Left nearly his entire estate to his third wife, Barbara, a Polish √©migr√© who used to be the family's chambermaid
  • Johnson's two ex-wives and six children sued, saying an incompetent and ill Johnson was coerced into signing the will
  • Lengthy and expensive legal battle settled out of court with most of the money going to Barbara and legal expenses

Jerry Garcia
  • Founder and lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead
  • Died in 1995 when he was 53
  • Estate valued at about $9.9 million
  • Will named Deborah Koons Garcia, Garcia's wife of 18 months; Garcia's brother; and his five daughters
  • Multiple lawsuits involving Deborah and the rest of the family named in the will
  • Ex-wives and former office managers are also making claims to estate
  • Family claims Deborah is evil, on a power trip; she counters that she is only trying to protect Jerry's artistic legacy

At the heart of each of these famous examples is the lesson that your estate plans cannot possibly be too clear. As your family situation changes over the course of your life, make sure those changes are reflected in your estate plans.

Click here for a list of major life events that should trigger a review and update of your plans.

Managing family relationships can be tricky, but communication is key. Start a conversation with loved ones so that everyone understands the estate plan ahead of time. Talking to your family won't alleviate relationship drama entirely, but it will ensure you have a say in your legacy.

We can help you plan a legacy that includes a gift to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Foundation, Inc.. Contact Paula S. Fortunas at 850-431-5752 or paula.fortunas@tmh.org to learn about gifts that benefit you and us.



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The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, please consult an attorney. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change. References to estate and income taxes apply to federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results.