From VIP to ICU: Celebrities Who Died on Vacation

August 4, 2022

Death has its own schedule, and it never matches the plans of the living. Hollywood has many stories of celebrities who died suddenly, which are even more tragic when death occurs while the star is on vacation or doing what they love. Some A-listers are no more prepared than ordinary people for a starring role in their death. Here are four celebrities whose stars were extinguished long before they were ready:

James Gandolfini

He had earned fame by playing the troubled boss of an Italian American crime family. James Gandolfini decided to explore his own Italian heritage by taking his family on vacation in Italy. Sadly, the Emmy Award-winning actor died in Rome of a heart attack on June 19, 2013. A family member found the 51-year-old star unconscious in his hotel bathroom. He was rushed to a hospital but was pronounced dead there.

Gandolfini’s sudden death became even more tragic for his family when it was revealed that due to poor estate planning, almost half of his estate – $30 million of $70 million – was taken by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Even worse, although he had set up a trust for his son and made other provisions in his Last Will and testament (“Will”), the final settlement of his estate was delayed by having to go to Probate Court.

Sonny Bono

Friends, family, and fans were left reeling by Bono’s sudden death in a skiing accident near Reno, Nevada, on Jan. 5, 1998. Bono was serving his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives when he died at age 62. He was even better known as a singing star, a hit-making music producer and the former husband of the legendary Cher. He was married to his second wife, Mary Bono, who was elected to replace him in Congress after he died.

Bono had not left a Will, so his estate, worth a reported 2 million, was hit by a series of lawsuits and other legal actions. They included Cher’s claim that he had not paid her what he owed in their 1975 divorce.

Michael Kennedy

The Kennedy family was known for its high-profile political activity – the clan included a U.S. president and two U.S. senators – and their competitive spirit and love of risk-taking helped fuel their success. But their fast-living ways led to tragedy for Michael Kennedy. The 39-year-old son of the late, legendary Robert F. Kennedy died in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado, on Dec. 31, 1997. Friends and witnesses said he crashed into a tree while playing football on skis.

At the time of his death, Kennedy was worth an estimated $1 million to $5 million. Most of that should have gone to his wife, Victoria Denise Gifford, and their three children.

Bob Saget

The famed comedian and TV star was not on vacation when he was found dead on Jan. 9, 2022, but he was doing what he loved: comedy. Saget, 65, was on tour and had just performed at a club near Orlando, Florida. His body was found in his hotel room after family members contacted authorities, worried that they had not heard from him. An autopsy later revealed he died of accidental trauma to his head, but it is still not known how he hit his head.

It is not yet known how Saget’s estimated $50 million estate is being settled. The comedian had been married to his second wife, Kelly Rizzo, since 2018 and had three daughters with his first wife, Sherri Kramer. We hope his attorneys had made sure to update his estate plan when he remarried in 2018. Many a widow or widower have been devastated to find themselves inadvertently left out of a Will because of “forgetting” to take care of this detail.

Naya Rivera

The star of the hit TV show Glee was just 33 when she drowned in an apparent boating accident in Ventura County, California, on July 8, 2020. Rivera was reported missing when she and her 4-year-old son did not return from an outing on Lake Piru, a lake known for strong currents. Her little boy was found alone on the pontoon boat; Rivera’s body was found several days later. An autopsy determined she had died of accidental drowning after she was unable to make it back on the boat after taking a swim.

Details of Rivera’s reported $5 million estate are unknown, but settlement could be complicated. Rivera was divorced from her former husband, actor Ryan Dorsey, who had custody of their 4-year-old son when she died. Dorsey and Rivera’s estate filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Ventura County, California, and the United Water Conservation District, soon after her tragic death.

Are you ready for the ultimate curtain call? Make sure your loved ones are legally protected, especially before making travel plans. To make sure your estate plan is in shape, contact OC Estate & Elder Law for a free phone consultation. Call (954) 251-0332 or email Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian.