On October 31, 2022, Forbes released its list of “Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities of 2022“. The list is riddled with tongue-in-cheek remarks (it was released on Halloween, after all), but this kind of information is truly fascinating.

Of the 13 named in this list, just one is an athlete – Kobe Bryant. The remaining are authors, musicians, and writers, or some combination of the three. Even Kobe Bryant was getting his reps in on becoming a filmmaker prior to his tragic death, winning an Oscar in 2017 for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”, which he wrote and produced.

Trust and estate litigation typically involves helping folks navigate “front-end” considerations, and there is a lot to navigate. Front-end considerations involve assessing questions following a decedent’s death such as (and this is by no means exhaustive):

  • Did the decedent die with a will or trust?
  • Determining the value of the estate or trust. Was the trust properly funded?
  • Was the most recent will, trust, and/or amendment validly executed (and if so, are there any facts that suggest the decedent lacked testamentary capacity and/or was unduly influenced at the time of execution)?
  • Does the estate planning document contain a no contest clause and if so, does your client risk its consequences by challenging its validity (i.e., disinheritance)? What further investigation can you conduct prior to litigation to mitigate the risk of a no contest clause?
  • Who should be tasked with the authority and obligations of administering the estate and/or trust?

I find information such that in this Forbes list fascinating because it amplifies the economic value of practical and creative decision making in estate and trust administration, especially where the legacy is not just an ascertainable amount of money to be distributed to beneficiaries, but a product that can outlive its creator and continue to generate income.

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