Celebrity Cases Provide Estate Planning Insight

December 5, 2011

We seem to live society that is somewhat obsessed with celebrities lives. Some media reports are instructive with respect to estate planning dos and don'ts. It was recently announced that Frenchwoman Liliane Bettencourt, who is the second richest woman in the world, has been declared mentally incompetent to handle her own affairs. Bettencourt is 88 years old and reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's induced dementia. Her family members have been involved in court struggles contending that she has been making bad financial decisions, including the diversion of some $1.4 billion to French renaissance man, Francois-Marie Banier. Bettencourt reportedly sought assistance to create a new will making Banier the sole beneficiary of her estate. The French court has given Bettencourt's daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers and her two grandsons control over the Bettencourt fortune, which is estimated to be valued at about $23.5 billion. According to Forbes this makes Liliane Bettencourt the 15th richest person in the world.
Situations like these provide a window into the way things can go if you do not engage in appropriate planning when you are in full control of your faculties. Whether or not the heiress was a victim of financial exploitation is in question. It may be safe to say that most people would not choose to give away $1.4 billion to someone who is not a family member and then change their will to disinherit their only child and grandchildren when they are in their 80s when they are of sound mind. Some 40% of people age 85 and up suffer from Alzheimer's disease. So yes, something like this could happen to you, which emphasizes the importance of seeking a qualified estate planner to assist in putting together a sound estate plan.

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