What a TV Dad’s Estate Teaches Us About Careful Planning

A-TV-Dad-Lesson-in-Estate-PlanningThere’s a simmering legal battle over the estate of TV dad Alan Thicke, and there are some lessons in the story–even if you’re immune to Hollywood gossip.

Two of Thicke’s sons, Brennan and (pop star) Robin, are trustees of Thicke’s estate, and they have asked the court for help in managing the estate. They allege that Thicke’s third wife, Tanya Callau, is trying to get more of Thicke’s estate than she’s entitled to.

What’s unusual is that Thicke apparently took steps to make sure this kind of thing wouldn’t happen. The actor periodically updated his trust, most recently in February 2016, just a few months before his death.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

In the trust, Thicke left each of his three children equal shares of a Carpinteria ranch, 75 percent of his personal effects and 60 percent of his remaining estate, according to the petition. He left Callau the ranch’s furnishings, 25 percent of his personal effects, a $500,000 life insurance policy, all of his death benefits from pensions and union memberships and 40 percent of his remaining estate. He also provided that she could live at the ranch, as long as she paid for its expenses and maintained the property.

However, Callau is now challenging the trust documents and a related pre-nuptial agreement.

At issue before the court: What specific property and assets were Thicke’s, prior to their marriage, thus are “separate property”–Thicke’s alone? And which are “community property” that Callau would automatically share ownership in?

As complicated as the litigation may be, Thicke’s existing documents and specific instructions likely means that it will be Callau’s burden to prove why Thicke’s wishes should not be followed. Without those updated documents, Thicke’s sons would bear more of the burden.

The Thicke family dispute is a reminder for all of us, that, as Americans are living longer, we’re more likely to have divorces, other relationships and, with them, children from more than one partner. The very notion of family is getting more complicated. That means estate planning is more complicated, too. And increasingly important.

Clear and concise directions for distributing your estate are essential, to protect your heirs from protracted messy litigation. Contact one of our seasoned attorneys to discuss your estate planning needs.