What We Can Learn from Jerry Lewis’ Estate Planning

Many of us are curious when celebrities pass away. This is especially true when it comes to their wealth and what they decided to do with their assets. Case in point, the passing of nutty professor actor and Muscular Dystrophy telethon founder, Jerry Lewis. The Internet was abuzz when it was reported that Lewis’s last will and testament individually named and intentionally disinherited his six sons from his first marriage. Instead, leaving his estate, worth approximately $50 million dollars to his widow and their adopted daughter. Considering the amount of assets, you know that this will be contested and heavily litigated. One of the more interesting aspects of this case involves an out of wedlock daughter, who is also destitute and who wasn’t listed as intentionally being disinherited, leaving the estate litigation door wide open to contest.

What I find most interesting is that Lewis’ estate is being distributed by a Last Will and Testament and not a Revocable Living Trust. In situations when clients wish to a) avoid the cost and time of probate (the process by which a Last Will Testament gets approved by a court); b) avoid a long and expensive legal estate contest; c) have family issues remain private; d) access assets immediately; and e) have assets go directly to specific beneficiaries or not go to beneficiaries, a Trust is the perfect legal document.

Now, there is a common myth that a Trust is complicated and expensive to maintain, quite the opposite. I guess we have a lot to learn from celebrities after all.

About Author

  • Email: mlamagna@hhrls.com
  • Michael LaMagna, LNHA, MPA, JD concentrates in the areas of Medicaid and Advanced Asset Protection Planning, Elder Law, Trusts and Estates, Probate and Probate Litigation, Guardianships, Health Care Regulatory Matters, Nursing Home Placement, Long Term Care Insurance, Medicare Appeals, Social Security/SSI Litigation and Special Needs Law. If you have a question for Mr. LaMagna, please call him at (914) 437-5955.