Don't Let Your Family Fight Like These Celebrity Heirs

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It’s all too common to hear of a tragedy turning into something even uglier: an epic family feud.

Without a Will, Advanced Directive, Trust, or Power Of Attorney in place, dramatic emotional warfare, especially in grieving family members, is free to run amok.

Here are a few examples of particularly destructive recent family feuds among celebrities and how some smart pre-planning can potentially spare your family unnecessary heartache.

Worldly Goods

Audrey Hepburn Breakfast At Tiffanys

Actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast At Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday) died over 20 years ago, but her two sons are still feuding over her Los Angeles storage locker, filled with the star’s memorabilia. Though she indicated in her Will that the two men should divide the contents of the locker 50/50, they haven’t been able to agree on what’s fair, and now lawyers are involved.

Lesson: In planning the distribution of possessions among your loved ones, be clear and specific. Never assume your family or friends will know exactly what you mean. Hire an attorney to help you with the language and official documentation. [Photo Source: Paramount]

Set Boundaries

BB King

Blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist B.B. King said that if a woman said a child was his, he would never shirk responsibility. As a result, there are 15 people who claim to be his offspring. Even before King died, three of his 11 surviving children were already in court, arguing over $5 million worth of assets.

Lesson: If yours is the case where you have a large family but put your trust in someone on the outside, like a manager, lawyer, or business associate, make sure you name that person unequivocally as the one to make major decisions for when you’re alive, and as the Executor of your estate in the event of your death. [Photo Source: Shutterstock]

Update Your Will Regularly; Be Painstakingly Clear When Establishing A Trust

Robin Williams walk of fame star memorial

When he created his Will, actor and comedian Robin Williams was married to Susan Schneider, his third wife. His three children are now locked in a legal battle with her over some of Williams’ assets. According to the Trust set up for his children, they were to inherit his memorabilia, awards, and other personal items. But Schneider’s attorneys argue the Will is vague and out of date. As a result, Williams’ lawyers could be named the largest beneficiaries of his estate, instead of his family.

Lesson: Make sure to update your Will as major life events (marriages, divorces, children, etc.) occur. [Photo Source: Shutterstock]

Health Issues, Life Insurance, and Death

casey kasem family feuds

Radio personality and voice actor Casey Kasem’s children are claiming his wife Jean was responsible for his death due to neglect, “fatal bedsores, and dehydration.” Though she was named as the beneficiary in his Life Insurance policy, his children’s lawyers argue if that person is responsible for the policy owner’s death, they can’t receive the money.

Lesson: You may be in a position where you’re unable to speak for yourself, which is why planning when you're of sound mind is so important. This is the entire point of Advance Directives, Trusts, making sure the beneficiaries you’ve named are up-to-date, and pre-planning. If there’s any room for dispute, make it abundantly clear you understand that when you make these choices. [Photo Source: Shutterstock]

Jessica Ferri is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Economist, and The New Yorker's Book Bench. Visit her website at

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