While most of us are able to handle our estate matters in private, celebrities have the media thirsty public to contend with. The latest headlines shine light on drama surrounding the late singer Tom Petty’s estate and the philanthropic commitment announced by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos.
Tom Petty’s daughters from his first marriage, Adria and Annakim, filed a complaint accusing their father’s widow, Dana York Petty, of failing to fund Petty Unlimited, LLC, which was set up to divide the trust assets equally among the three women. They allege that Dana set up a separate company “as a vehicle through which to deprive” them of their inheritance. The issue lies in the wording of the trust, which the daughters say grants them “equal participation” in the handling of his estate. Asserting herself as the sole trustee, Dana responded by filing a petition accusing the daughters of attempting to “rule by majority” and suggesting that Adria’s “erratic behavior” could put the trust’s business dealings and relationships in jeopardy. She wants the court to assign an independent professional manager to help manage the assets. The daughters are seeking at least $5 million in damages. The bottom line? Words matter! In cases like this, the burden could fall on the drafting attorney to provide evidence, if any, as to what the Trustor had in mind during the drafting process.
In other news, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced that she is joining some of the world’s wealthiest people in taking “The Giving Pledge” – a pledge which was started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to give away at least half of their wealth to charitable causes. The former couple did not have a pre-nuptial agreement in place when they divorced in April 2019 and MacKenzie Bezos became the world’s third-richest woman, acquiring a stake in Amazon worth about $36 billion. Jeff Tweeted out support of his ex’s philanthropic pledge but has not made the pledge himself. One can only imagine that if either of them remarries in the future, they will both opt for a prenup!
Let these celebrity cases be a lesson to us all about the importance of having a rock solid estate plan in place!