Anna Nicole Smith: A Model for Bad Estate Planning

Anna Nicole Smith rose to fame as a
model for Guess Jeans and Playboy
magazine. Now, her death has given
her newfound fame as a great model for
terrible estate planning.
Forget the fact that you can’t visit a
supermarket without seeing gossip about
her life and death. When push comes to
shove, Anna Nicole, the human being,
was a single mother who was embroiled
in a bitter legal battle over the estate of
her ex-husband, and was suffering from
the sudden and unexpected death of her
son just three days after the birth of her
daughter. Her legal situation becomes
nearly as tragic as her life. She sadly didn’t
take proper measures to protect her baby
daughter from opportunists finagling to
acquire custody in order to have access to
her inheritance.
What can we learn from Anna Nicole’s
Lesson 1: Keep your estate plan current.
Anna Nicole’s will was prepared in 2001,
before she ever conceived of daughter,
Dannielynn. The will leaves her entire
estate to her son, Daniel, and specifically
disinherits any offspring born after the will
was signed. Because she never updated
the will after her son died and her daughter
was born, the document is invalid.
Lesson 2: Hire an experienced attorney. A
licensed attorney in the State of California
prepared Smith’s will. But did he have
extensive probate experience? A qualified
and savvy attorney would have had the
foresight to protect her in the event that she
survived her son.
Lesson 3: Select a guardian. It’s always
a hard decision to make, because no one
can raise your children as well as you can.
But it’s imperative to select someone. You
can always change it later.

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