Singer and politician Sonny Bono died without a will, and then an alleged love child came out of the woodwork and muddled his estate. Princess Diana took short cuts in designating gifts she wanted for her godchildren, and her wishes were subsequently ignored.
Other celebrities--including Marlon Brando, James Brown and Health Ledger--were similarly lax in their estate planning and left behind a legal mess for others to sort out and fight over.
These high-profile, big-money snafus might make for good supermarket tabloid reading, but they can also be good role models, so to speak, for how not to address retirement and estate planning issues, say Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! The couple works with financial advisors to help them help their clients avoid these pitfalls.
The Mayoras' message is that advisors who establish an expertise in retirement and estate planning issues can provide a value-added service to clients and provide a competitive edge to an advisor's practice.
"When you start focusing on estate planning for clients, it shows you care about your clients as people and that you care about their families," says Danielle, a specialist in estate planning and education at the law firm of Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras P.C. in Troy, Mich. Her husband, Andrew, specializes in probate law and litigation at the firm.
"It helps solidify the relationship and gives you an opening to future generations," Danielle says. "These are the issues advisors should start looking at when their clients start thinking about retirement, if not sooner."
The Mayorases say planners can use famous people and the unexpected problems they encounter as a conversation starter on the topic. Phil Klein, president of Phil Klein Insurance Group in Bloomfield, Mich., who also handles clients' investments, says he has taken their advice.
"Using celebrities to open the conversation is a good business model for letting clients know what problems can arise," Klein says. He adds it helps him explain complicated subjects in an easy to understand way, and that he has got referrals because clients appreciate the help and they tell friends who might be facing similar issues.
"I have used the Trials and Heirs book as a reference in my talks with clients," Klein says. He said he met the Mayorases at one of the seminars and workshops for advisors they conduct around the country. One of their most popular workshops is Trial & Heirs: Lessons from Celebrities to Grow Your Business. The couple is now preparing a broadcast presentation for the Public Broadcasting Service, which should air nationally in December.
Workshops cost between $7,500 and $15,000, depending on the type of presentation and the length of time involved. The couple can be contacted through their website, www.TrialandHeirs.com.