Sunday, July 12, 2009

Michael Jackson did set a good example for estate planning

Financial columnist Eileen Amrbose has a useful column on p 16 of the Sunday July 12 Baltimore Sun, motivated by the example set by Michael Jackson’s estate. The column has the long title “All the Right Moves? Michael Jackson’s skill as an entertainer was unrivaled, but lessons abound in the King of Pop’s estate planning.” That’s the title in print, but online she is even more explicit. “Michael Jackson wowed audiences with his singing and dancing, but his best performance may have been the handling of his will, which he nearly got perfect.”
The link is here.

Ambrose extracts some practical tips from Michael Jackson’s most public example. One is to be rather public about your intentions. Tell people about it, make more than one copy (yes, keep at least one original in the safe deposit box). She doesn’t say so explicitly, but I think that the idea of a “dead hand” – posthumous expectations of behavior of beneficiaries – would be OK with her. It’s important to be clear and sensible about one’s wishes for custody of one’s children. There have been a few movies and television shows (“Raising Helen”, “Summerland”, “Saving Sarah Cain”) where childless siblings wind up raising the kids and other films about desired behavior (“The Ultimate Gift”). Parents should be sure that the other siblings would be prepared for the task. Or parents might choose other guardians of about their own age whom they know are ready for the task.

The article makes the often overlooked point that wills are supposed to be public but trusts, which have become popular lately and which may have the final say, are generally private. The article also provides some details on contesting wills, where laws vary by state.

Visitors might want to check out the 1968 short story by John Knowles (author of "A Separate Peace"), "The Reading of the Will"; descriptive link here.

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