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Three estate planning lessons from the rich and famous

After a celebrity dies, you can share how the news affects you instantaneously with your friends via social media. You can also read anything you want about their successes and their failures.

You can learn that David Bowie's creative successes not only included his art but also his estate planning. You can also learn about (and hopefully from) the multi-million dollar estate planning mistakes made by some.

According to Forbes, estate planning lessons you can learn from celebrity mistakes include:

Create a plan before you need one and write a will - Prince

At the age of 57, Prince may have thought that he did not need a will. When the pop singer died unexpectedly last year, his estate was left without a plan. This left an opening for the federal government to take some of his estate in taxes - 40 percent in federal taxes and 16 percent in state taxes. The remaining amount will be divided among his family members.

Even if you feel like death is far in the future, it is not too early to write a will.

Protect your privacy and plan to avoid probate - Whitney Houston

Whitney Huston, on the other hand, did plan ahead. She wrote a will indicating to whom she wanted to leave her estate. However, it went to probate court, and is published for anyone to see the state of her finances. She could have avoided this by setting a living trust which would not have been published during the probate process.

Wills are published during probate court, so it may be a good idea to investigate additional options to protect your privacy.

Update your estate plans documents to reflect your current wishes - Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic park, wrote a will disinheriting future children. He did not amend it after his sixth wife became pregnant. His wife had to fight the author's family members for his baby to inherit anything.

Not all situations are that dramatic, but updating your estate plan after a significant change of situation such as a child or a marriage, might be a good idea.

The rich and the famous might leave behind larger dollar amounts than many, but the lessons about their estate planning or lack thereof are relevant for all. Planning ahead can help you protect your assets and your privacy. It can help you provide for your loved ones.

If you are inspired to start your estate planning, or already know what you want but are not sure where to start, you should talk to an estate planning attorney.

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