“Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn”…About My Estate Plan

December 22, 2021

Before they reach the audience, Hollywood movies and TV shows have just about every moment worked out in tightly written scripts. But off-screen is a different story, especially when it comes to business and finance. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the script, so they do not always get a happily-ever-after. Two Hollywood personalities offer lessons in financial planning for children that all of us could profit from.

Spoiler alert: The children in both stories lose.

Grab some popcorn and click over to our LegalFlix channel for stories that will leave you on the edge of your seat as you dial your estate planner.

Daniel Craig: No Bonds (or Any Other Assets) for the Kids

He has made millions of dollars as legendary spy James Bond, and Daniel Craig is not leaving a dime to his children. At least, that is what he says now. “Isn’t there an old adage that if you die a rich person, you’ve failed?” asked Craig, father of two daughters, in an interview in Candis magazine. “I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation. I think inheritance is quite distasteful. My philosophy is get rid of it or give it away before you go.”

Craig is hardly the first celebrity to insist his children will have to earn their riches on their own. The list is long: TV chefs Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay; political commentator Rush Limbaugh; music legends Sting and Elton John; actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who have two children together; and many more. Tech pioneers Bill and Melinda Gates have famously campaigned for other people of means to give everything away, and not to their children.

Whether you divest yourself now or after passing away, it is not that easy to arrange without expert help. And without a written plan, your children will get your estate automatically upon your death.

Bob Ross: The Pain of Poor Planning

You might be shocked to learn that Bob Ross, the sweet-natured, crazy-haired host of The Joy of Painting on PBS, left an estate after his death that was the subject of an ugly legal fight among his heirs and former business partners. It might have turned out differently if Ross and his advisors had coordinated his business succession plan and personal estate plan.

In his beloved painting program, Ross always advised that there were “no mistakes in life . . . just happy little accidents.” His estate story was an accident but hardly a happy one. You can find it on Netflix, which is carrying a documentary titled Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed. It is a tale filled with legal plot twists; here is the condensed version:

Wait; there is more drama. Bob developed lymphoma and died in 1995. Before he passed away, he set up a trust that would equally benefit his brother and his son, Steve Ross. It also required that Steve inherit the intellectual property owned by the business partnership. Steve sued Bob Ross Inc. for those assets. The judge in the case denied his claim, ruling that the trust never had control over the property so it could not give anything to Steve Ross. Bob Ross’ son got nothing from the business empire his father had built.

What have we learned? Do not forget any business entities you have an interest in, and make sure to coordinate it with your personal estate plan. Make sure your estate planner is knowledgeable in both areas.

Be careful not to turn your feel-good estate plan into a tragedy due to poor planning. Contact OC Estate & Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or info@ocestatelawyers.com to get started with a free phone consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian.