Singer's Death Raises Questions About Proper Estate Planning

On behalf of Adler Law posted in Estate Planning on Friday, January 18, 2013.

Many Long Island residents would think that the rich and famous would be more likely to have an estate plan in the event of their untimely death. Sadly, this is not always the case. Even when millions of dollars are at stake, many celebrities do not take the time for proper estate planning. This is believed to be the case with popular Mexican singer Jenni Rivera.

Rivera tragically died in a plane crash in Mexico on Dec. 9. It is unknown exactly if Rivera had a will or trust, but it is known that she had a letter outlining instructions for her sister to run her music business and care for her two minor children. One of the big issues to settle is whether guardianship of her children be enforced by a letter.

Wills are often prepared by attorneys. However, in some states, letters can be treated as wills if they can be proven that they were intended to be legal documents. California, where Rivera resided, may honor the letter if it was worded correctly.

Another issue is that 43-year-old Rivera filed from divorce from her husband in October. At the time of her death, the divorce was not yet finalized, which means that they were still husband and wife. This could have many legal implications, such as what assets the husband could inherit from Rivera's estate.

Because Rivera created a company to manage her affairs, she may have a living trust and some sort of estate plan in place, but they have yet to be found. Time will tell if there will be family disputes over the lack of an estate plan.

A case like this highlights the importance of creating a proper estate plan, which includes guardianship. Rights to guardianship of minor children are given to parents first, then relatives. In a situation like the case above, an estate plan would eliminate any confusion as to who should take care of the children if anything happened to one or both of the parents, which could make the aftermath easier on the children. An experienced attorney can assist families with creating the necessary documents to make the transition easier on everyone.

Source: Forbes, "Jenni Rivera's Estate Heading For Turmoil," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Jan. 7, 2013

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