“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation.  Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what?  After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”

– John C. Maxwell


This week my oldest daughter turned 12!  She and her mom are planning a mystery party, which should be a lot of fun for the kids.  Other than the party, I think she was most excited about getting to ride in the front seat (remember when that wasn’t such a big deal when we were kids – no air bags!).  I guess it won’t be too long until she’s sitting in the driver’s seat.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that.  For now though, I’ve got to remember to keep the junk out of the front seat so she has a place to sit!

Oops, I probably should have said this before — I’m not trying to frighten you. Yes, the people I mentioned in that subject line have passed on to a different place, but I’m not suggesting you’re next!

Anyway, what’s interesting about these celebrities is that each one of them made some major mistakes in their planning BEFORE tragedy struck…and it cost their loved ones dearly.

And, I thought you’d be interested to learn some of these “behind the celebrity” stories I ran across. They’re from a new book called Trial & Heirs by Andrew Mayoras, a probate litigator, and they make for interesting reading!

Let me know your thoughts!

Aaron Miller’s
“Straight Talk” Personal Strategy
Estate Planning Mistakes of the Rich & Famous

Florence “FloJo” Griffith Joyner

Mistake: Not telling your executor where to find your original documents.

When Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner died at 38, in 1998, her husband couldn’t find her original will, and failed to file it with the probate court within 30 days of her death, as required by California law. Joyner’s husband and mother took disputes, including whether Joyner promised her mother could live in their house the rest of her life, to court. Joyner never filed the original will, and the judge eventually appointed a third party to administer the estate.

Our Lesson: Make sure at least two people you trust know where to find your original will. To be safe, keep two copies, and leave the original in your bank safety deposit box, or in a safe here at our offices.

Doris Duke

Mistake: Bad choice of executor.

Tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993 with a fortune estimated at $1.3 billion, named her butler as executor and as trustee for a huge charitable foundation. After the butler’s lifestyle and spending habits were called into question, he was removed from his duties by a probate judge, then reinstated by New York’s highest court. A settlement agreement created a board of trustees to manage the foundation.

Our Lesson: Don’t have the butler do it. Pick someone competent and trustworthy as your executor. And, of course, we can help you with that!

Princess Diana

Mistake: Relying on a “letter of wishes” to give away belongings.

After her tragic death in 1997, Princess Diana left a detailed will–naming her sister and mother as executors. She also wrote a separate “letter of wishes” asking her executors, at their discretion, to divide her belongings among her sons and her 17 godchildren. But instead of getting stuff worth an estimated 100,000 pounds, each godchild got only a trinket.

Our Lesson: Don’t rely on executors’ sense of duty; put bequests in your will or trust or in a signed, dated list.

Jimi Hendrix

Mistake: Never writing a will.

Music legend Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 without a will. Under state law, his dad, Al, got everything, leaving his close brother Leon with nothing. Al built Hendrix’s musical legacy into an $80 million venture, but, in his own will, he cut out Leon and his family, in favor of his daughter through a later marriage.

Our Lesson: Even young rock stars aren’t immortal. Sign a will or living trust document.

Ted Williams

Mistake: Conflicting directions on burial wishes.

In his will, baseball legend Ted Williams said he wished to be cremated. But his two children from a second marriage produced a grease-stained note saying he wished to be put in “biostasis” after his death, and they froze his body after his death in 2002. It’s become a bit of a macabre joke in the sports community, unfortunately. His eldest daughter fought to have his body unfrozen and cremated, but gave up the fight when she ran out of money.

Our Lesson: If you change your mind about your burial wishes, change your will by adding a codicil, or writing a new one.

I hope these stories help you avoid becoming a celebrity cautionary tale!

To your family’s wealth, health, and happiness!

Aaron Miller

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