I'm guessing only planners may think like this but I have always been fascinated after a celebrity passing, what type of planning they may have done to protect their estate and pass their successes on to the next generation. Recently we lost Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher in the same week and I couldn't help but take a peak at what their various estates looked like and what level of planning may have been accomplished.
I must admit, I have always been fond of Debbie Reynolds and her daughter. Perhaps because there are so few of the old guard left, true Hollywood royalty, or maybe because of how they have both overcame challenges in their life. Bottom line, I just felt they were two of the good people walking this Earth.
Overall, I think both of their estates would have been rather simple to plan. There weren’t many heirs so likely the issues would be simple. For Carrie, her one daughter Billie Lourd would likely get the house and whatever money there may be. Did Carrie have a will? Was it updated? Same questions all of us need to answer but in her case the absence of one would likely not change much with only one daughter. Debbie on the other hand had a trust. Since this is obviously a more private way of distributing assets, we may never know the details unless it's released by her son Todd, where all the assets went. I would surmise however since this family was very close, Todd would be the largest benefactor, likely a smaller portion to Billie Lourd and if I were a betting man, Debbie listed several charities that would also share in the wealth. For both ladies, how much wealth are we talking about? For Debbie, it was reported at $60 million. I doubt that very much. She may have made that in her career but some of her business endeavors did not fare very well including a casino that she filed for chapter 11 on in 1997 and a personal bankruptcy the same year. She was a fighter and survivor however and as many know, a huge collector of Hollywood memorabilia. Although some of it was used to pay off debt, the remaining sales along with her performing well into her eighties probably allowed her to rebuild a portion of her earlier wealth. She lived in a very modest $1,000.000 home in Beverly Hills so much of her work later in life was more so out of pleasure and to maintain her lifestyle.
As for Carrie, her estate was probably similar to her mom's. Perhaps in the $20-25 million range with much of that in her $14 million Beverly Hills home next door to Mom. No one certainly needs to feel sorry for her or Billie but it was disappointing to me that she did not own the Princess Leia image or any piece of the merchandising which I guess was simply not done back in the day. I will be curious to see if the lawyers decide to go after Disney and essentially blackmail them to force additional payouts in a time of tragedy. Disney from my perspective owes her nothing. I'm sure they were insured against losing a star in their film, but that money belongs to them. Like all of us, it is our responsibility to plan and prepare for this eventuality.
In the end, Billie Lourd will be well taken care of and even get to carry the torch as she has a role in the next Star Wars film. Even though her Mom and grandmother were not ultra wealthy, they fought for what they accumulated and have started this young lady off very well. Hopefully their fight, persistence and goodness will also transfer to Billie which in reality are the most important things to pass along to the next generation.
Roy Larsen is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and Fee Only Wealth Manager who resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Roy's Financial Blog contains articles on multiple financial life events as well as his favorite questions from he receives from around the country as a an expert panel member for Investopedia's Advisor Insights.