While we can learn from the mistakes of others when it comes to planning our estate, we can also learn from what others did right.

Estate planning is relevant to all of us, regardless of the size of our estate or how much we own. It’s all about reducing stress and confusion at a time of loss as well as having your possessions distributed in a meaningful and tax-efficient way. Here are three celebrity estate plans we can learn from:

Philip Seymour Hoffman teaches us to get creative

While there were a few hiccups in the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s estate planning, he made sure to pass along his goals, beliefs and morals to those left behind him.

In his will, Hoffman included detail on how he wanted his son to be raised. It instructed that he could only be raised in Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco or must visit one of those cities twice each year in order to be exposed to the arts and culture. We often think of wills as merely a passing down of our assets and belongings but we can craft our estate to be delegated in a way that’s in line with our core values and beliefs.

Frank Sinatra teaches us to plan ahead

Sinatra, the singer, actor, director, film producer and conductor, left behind a very detailed will.

It was 21 pages long and included a “no contest clause” which prohibited various legal actions, preventing his family from fighting in court. If someone in his family engaged in any prohibited legal actions, they would be completely disinherited.

While this is much more common place today, Sinatra was ahead of his time. His detailed will worked and no one challenged any aspect of his estate. Many people wrongly assume that their families will get along after they pass away. It’s always smart to plan ahead in order to prevent your wishes from being changed or adjusted due to family fighting.

Elizabeth Taylor shows us how to use a trust

Elizabeth Taylor, the movie star’s estate was completely peaceful and very private. It’s known that she created the Elizabeth Taylor Trust and funded it with her assets.

Her eighth and final husband, Larry Fortensky, inherited approximately $800,000, but that is only known because he told the Daily Mail in an interview. It is believed the remainder of her estate was distributed among 3 charitable foundations she was instrumental in creating (the National AIDS Research Foundation, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, better known as “AMFAR,” and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation), her children and grandchildren.

Documents about her trust were never made public. Wills have to be filed with the probate court and are made public record. Anyone can read them. On the other hand, revocable living trusts operate differently and remain private. They are also less costly to administer because the court doesn’t have to get involved. Taylor’s estate was a great example of how to use a living trust to create a peaceful and private estate.


Ashley Feinstein Gerstley is a money coach and founder of the Fiscal Femme where she demystifies the world of money and personal finance. Get her exclusive how-to guide “30 Days to Financial Bliss“ – free for GoGirl Finance readers.