While people worldwide—and especially the millennials among us—mourn the death of Luke Perry, meager solace exists in knowing that those closest to the Beverly Hills 90210 star need not worry about fulfilling his last wishes. Unlike two thirds of adults, Perry had put his estate in order before his tragic and untimely passing.
Ask any given adult about appropriate estate planning and, in all likelihood, you’ll be met with bewilderment. At most, you might hear something about a last will and testament when, in fact, this is but one of four critical elements in estate planning. Not knowing these is hardly blameworthy; after all, even celebrities with estates valued in the millions often fail to properly organize their assets.
Amy Winehouse, for instance, skipped the first step in proper estate management: executing a will. Without a will, state laws determine how your assets are distributed following your passing. In Winehouse’s case, this meant her 6.7 million-dollar estate passed to her parents when, for all we know, she may have intended that her brother or a particular charity receive a portion of her hard-earned fortune.
A will only achieves its purpose if kept up-to-date, however. Prior to his passing, Michael Crichton tragically failed to update his 2007 will despite his sixth wife being pregnant when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Unfortunately, this forced Sherry Alexander to endure the stress of going to court on her child’s behalf at the same time as she mourned her husband’s loss.
In addition to maintaining an up-to-date will, proper estate planning means setting up a living trust, something superstar Whitney Houston neglected to do before returning to whatever heavenly planet she came from. A living trust protects your privacy as it is not a public document—unlike a will—and therefore need not pass through probate court. Additionally, a living trust provides estate-tax benefits by letting you use the full federal estate-tax exemption.
A final aspect of proper estate planning is preparing for disability. This means filing power-of-attorney documents should you lose the capacity to make legal decisions, yourself. Sadly, blues singer Etta James only realized this step after her mental health had deteriorated, causing her spouse and son to enter into a legal battle that would consume the last of James’ days.
Perhaps the most alarming and heartbreaking case of celebrity neglect in estate planning is that of Aretha Franklin, who did not leave so much as a will instructing how to distribute her 80 million-dollar fortune. Though your estate is likely worth only a fraction of Franklin’s, it would be no less tragic to allow your life’s work to be mismanaged should the unexpected worst come to pass.
Though far too young to abandon this world, Luke Perry left us with a final lesson in good living: consider those you love most by keeping your affairs in proper order. After all, none of us wish extra anxiety on our nearest and dearest.
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