You can sometimes learn from the mistakes of others when it comes to estate planning, and the estate of Jim Morrison is a case in point. The 50th anniversary of his passing took place on July 3, 2021, so many people are remembering his life and his career achievements.
Complicated Family Situation
Every family is not big and happy, and this can create some messy estate situations. Simply put, Morrison did not like his parents at all, but they would be his next of kin if he was to predecease them. As a result, they would inherit his estate if he died without a will.
This would definitely be contrary to Morrison’s wishes, and he took a big step in advance to make sure that this did not happen. He created a legally valid will, and he named his girlfriend Pamela Courson as the sole heir with one stipulation.
She had to live for at least 90 days after his death to inherit Morrison’s assets. He named his brother and sister as alternates that would inherit the estate if she was to die during this 90 day period. This stipulation serves as proof that he did not want his parents to inherit anything.
Courson lived for about two years after Morrison’s death, but she did not have a will when she died. Under the intestate succession laws, her parents contended that they were entitled to her estate, which included the estate of Jim Morrison.
There is zero doubt that the “Lizard King” did not want to leave his assets and his ongoing royalty rights to her parents, and his parents filed a lawsuit to contest the estate.
Eventually, the two parties came to an agreement to split the estate, and that was the final determination. In the end, Morrison’s legacy wound up in the hands of people that he really did not care for at all.
This could have been prevented if he would have had the foresight to think about this very predictable outcome. He was wise enough to put a will in place, but he did not take the extra step to create a trust with ironclad protections.
It was clear that he wanted his siblings to inherit his resources after the death of Courson, and he could have established a trust that would ensure this outcome.
Loss of Privacy
There is another lesson to be learned from this unfortunate saga. Why do we know all the details about a family matter that should really be private?
When a will has been executed, it is admitted to probate. This is a legal process that takes place under the supervision of a court, and probate records are available to the general public.
Anyone that is interested can access the records to pry into all the details. A loss of privacy is one probate drawback, and there are a couple of others that may be even more problematic.
Probate expenses include court costs, the executor’s remuneration, appraisal and liquidation fees, and in some cases, legal and accounting expenses. These debits reduce the value of the estate before it is distributed to the beneficiaries.
Another negative is the time factor. No inheritances are distributed until the estate has been probated and closed, and it will take close to a year in many instances. Some complicated, contested cases are stalled in probate for many years.
If you use a living trust as your asset transfer vehicle, the trustee that you name would be able to distribute assets to the beneficiaries outside of probate. This is one of the benefits, and there are others that we will look in future posts.
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The estate of Jim Morrison is an eye-opening example of the way that things can go wrong if you do not plan your estate properly. This is why it is important to work with a Los Angeles estate planning attorney to develop a plan that will ensure the actualization of your wishes.
If you are ready to do just that, you can schedule a consultation appointment if you call us at 310-337-7696. If you would rather reach out electronically, fill out our contact form and we will get back in touch with you promptly.