Celebrities are always providing estate planning lessons for the rest of us. Gary Coleman who died in Utah in May at age 42 is the latest celebrity whose estate planning was a disaster. There are at least 3 wills, maybe more, that have been found and the fight has already begun between his ex-wife Shannon Price, his estranged parents, and a woman who formerly lived with the actor and was the CEO of his corporation, Anna Gray.
Supposedly there is a will executed in 1999 leaving everything to his manager Dion Mial, a will executed in 2005 leaving everything to Anna Gray ,and a document purporting to be an addendum to a will executed in 2007, one week after he and Shannon Price were married, leaving everything to Price. The document is not witness or notarized. Price and Coleman divorced in 2008 although according to Price, continued to live together in a common law marriage. (Utah is one of a dozen states that recognize common law marriage.)
Friend and co-star Todd Bridges also has said he has a secret will expressing Coleman’s true wishes about his estate and his final wishes. The actor’s estranged parents also claim that since Coleman and Price were divorced, they have the legal rights to his remains. The court in Utah has already scheduled a hearing for July 2 to sort things out and appoint a personal representative of the estate.
This is another example of how important it is to have a comprehensive estate plan in place and constantly update it after marriage, divorce, change in beneficiaries, etc. It also is important to do your estate planning according to the laws in your state. A will that is not notarized or witnessed is not going to hold up in court as a valid testamentary document.
Properly drafted estate planning documents are so important, one wonders why celebrities who have the means to do it correctly, often do not. The experienced estate planning lawyers at Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation can help you avoid the disasters common to celebrities and create an estate plan that will not cause difficulties for your loved ones after your death.