December 16, 2010
Hollywood is abuzz with the latest high profile celebrity death and subsequent battle brewing over the estate of famed publicist Ronni Chasen. Chasen, who was a prominent mover and shaker on the Hollywood movie scene, was shot dead in her car during what was believed to be a failed robbery attempt last month.
And while the cause of her murder has officially been “solved” by police, the latest mystery to surface is whether Chasen wanted to amend her controversial estate plan prior to her untimely death.
As of this week, Radaronline.com is reporting that Ronni Chasen had expressed a desire to update her will two months before she was murdered. Martha Smilgis, who was a friend and the co-executor of the will Chasen did in 1994, says that Chasen approached her two months prior to her death saying she wanted to update her will.
In her 1994 will, Chasen, who is not married and had no children, left a large portion of her estate to a niece while leaving the only other niece only $10. According to Smilgis, Chasen said she wanted to “rearrange things” in her new will. Does this mean that she simply wanted to update it to include any new assets, or did she plan on changing things to leave a larger portion to her niece? No one will ever really know the answer to that question unless a new will magically appears on the scene.
As a Sacramento estate planning lawyer, I can almost guarantee that an ugly battle will ensue as the niece who was left out will want to fight for what she believes is rightfully hers in a court of law.
This is exactly the reason that I call my clients every three years for an estate plan review. Too many things in your life (not to mention the law) change to assume that the decisions you make at one point in your life are the same decisions you would make years later. Family dynamics change; babies are born, people divorce and remarry, aging and health-related issues start to surface, family relationships mend… wouldn’t you want to be sure that your estate plan reflects these changes?
The fact that Chasen wanted to change her estate plan is just one small portion of a very sad story, but it is one that we should all consider and learn from. You MUST NEVER wait to update your estate plan if there are changes you want to see made. Accidents can happen at any moment and you want to be sure your legal documents reflect your current wishes should the unthinkable occur.
Are there changes you want to make to your will or other estate planning documents but haven’t had the chance? Based on this recent story, I encourage you to stop procrastinating and find a Sacramento estate planning lawyer you trust to update the plan.
If you need help getting started, please feel free to call me, your neighborhood Sacramento estate planning lawyer for help. You can even come in for one of our comprehensive Peace of Mind Planning Sessions (normally $750) at no charge so we can discuss any other changes that may need to be made. Simply call (916) 241-9661 to reserve your spot.