What Anna Nicole’s Estate Drama Can Teach Us

Just when you thougth you heard the last of Anna Nicole, here she is again.  Except this time she is TEACHING us something.  Her whole estate drama provides a poignent case study about the importance of Estate Planning and why even rich people need to have a plan.

Plan for Contingencies.
Anna Nicole had a will from 2001 that left everything to her son.  It specifically excluded unknown children.  This clause typically protects men from unknown individuals claiming a right to inheritance.  Let's say Daniel hadn't died.  Upon Smith's death all her property would have been willed to her son Daniel and Dannielynn would have received nothing.  She probably would not have intended for this to happen.

  • Make sure you KNOW what is in your will or trust

  • Update your will or trust after any big life change (if you or your wife is pregnant - what happens to an unborn child)


Since Daniel did pass away, Anna Nicole's will lapsed and state intestacy law determines the heir, in this case Dannielynn.

Appoint a Guardian for Your Children
In Anna Nicole's case the court gets to decide who will be charged with caring for Dannielynn.  The court could even decide Anna Nicole's mother gets to raise her which Anna Nicole probably would not have wanted.  If you are convinced a likely candidate is unfit to be a parent, make sure to leave arrangements for guardianship, outline your reasoning, and provide the court an argument for supporting your position.

Arrange Your Funeral
It seems morbid to do so, but after all, this is your last celebration.  Everyone will be coming to honor your life.  Make sure to have these arangements done to your liking so you get exactly what you want.  In the best case, you'll be forcing your already worn family with additional burdens, and in the worst case someone may wish something upon your funeral you yourself might not have wanted at all.  Your funeral instructions may also avoid bickering between disagreeing parties and give your exectutor the authority to cover the expenses so your family doesn't have to. 

In Anna Nicole's case, Dannielynn was awarded custody of the body.  How is a baby supposed to know what to do?  So her representative in this case Richard Milstein decided where to bury Anna Nicole.  Do you think that is what she intended?

Legalize A Marriage
Getting married for tax and inheritances purposes hardly seems romantic, but really it's just paperwork.  Make sure you do this if you want to entitle your love to your property.  For Howard Stern, a marriage would have given him at least half, as the boyfriend he is entitled to zilch.