SERIES - Estate Planning Lessons Learned From Celebrity Bloopers - Stieg Larsson
Lesson One. Plan Now. Rest in Peace Later.
Stieg Larsson “Played with Fire” by not drafting a Will to distribute his assets. Stieg Larsson, best selling author of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the accompanying sequels, achieved global success through his novels and a Hollywood movie adaptation that grossed over $150 million worldwide. Larsson was never married and had no children. He had been living with his girlfriend of over 30 years when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack at age 50, without ever drafting a will. Larsson left behind a sizable fortune including additional unpublished manuscripts, sparking a lawsuit between his girlfriend and his family, who legally inherit his estate. Larsson’s girlfriend of 32 years inherited nothing. Instead, Larsson’s estate passed to his father and brother, with whom Larsson is said to have had a tumultous relationship. Because of this, Larsson’s girlfriend refused to turn over his laptop, which she claims they shared, containing the unpublished fourth manuscript sequel, potentially worth millions of dollars. Larsson’s family instead hired a ghost writer to “keep Larsson’s legacy alive”; characters and plots were appropriated by this ghost writer and endings of books were changed. The family is now profiting from Larsson's work and making decisions that most close to Larsson believe he would have vehemently opposed. As in most states in the United States, Sweden does not recognize inheritance rights for common-law spouses where there is no will. Unfortunately, Larsson’s estate has turned into a “he said – she said” battle . No one will know for sure who Larsson would have wanted to inherit his fortune and manage his literary legacy. One thing’s for certain – his assets will be severely diminished due to the fighting. (Keep in mind in the U.S., most fees associated with litigation over an Estate are paid directly from the Estate).
LESSON LEARNED: Accidents and illnesses can strike at any time and at any age. While it’s easy to procrastinate and avoid taking care of estate planning matters like drafting a will, trust, living will, or power of attorney, the consequences can be devastating. Here are a few unintended results: (a) you forfeit control over who manages and receives your assets; State law will instead make this determination; (b) intestacy statutes can result in [MANY] distant relatives inheriting a piece of your estate; (c) attorneys and other administration fees (like genealogists, yearly bonding, etc.) can be significant if fights break out among the important people in your life.
There is no better time than the present to get your estate affairs in order.