Winehouse Had Her Legal House In Order

I’ve briefly discussed the case of the late Amy Winehouse before. She was young, very talented, and had found financial success and notoriety as an R&B singer. Here’s a great video of one of her performances in case you’re not familiar with her.

In the past, I’ve pointed out times when celebrities have really dropped the ball when it came to estate planning. And more often than not, when an estate plan fails big, it’s not that an estate plan was never done, it’s that an estate plan WAS done, but it was out of date or did not reflect the current wishes of the deceased individual.

Fortunately, the case of Amy Winehouse was refreshingly different. She in fact had a solid, and recently updated estate plan in pace. The happy result was that her assets passed very smoothly and without rancor or contention amongst her intended beneficiaries. Winehouse had been divorced only recently from the man who is widely regarded as the one who introduced her to hard drugs, eventually leading her into a downward spiral that landed her in rehab multiple times and may have eventually led to her death. Had she not updated her estate plan after that divorce, British law would likely have allowed much, if not all, of her estimated £10 million (and growing!) to pass to her ex-husband.

In the U.S., state law varies widely as to how an estate will be divided amongst living relatives if someone dies without a will. State law also varies with regard to how an ex-spouse would be treated if they were still named in a will of their former spouse when that spouse died.

The solution is to make sure that when a divorce occurs -- or any major change in financial or family circumstances for that matter -- you review all of your estate planning documents. If you’re not sure how they would work upon your death, ask your attorney to help you understand them. Amy Winehouse may have been a poor example in certain aspects of her life. But she was a shining example to all of us when it comes to estate planning.

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