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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Those that don’t learn from the mistakes of those around them are bound to repeat those same mistakes themselves. I’m often amazed by how interested society is in the lives of the rich and famous. I suppose we all daydream about being rich and famous ourselves and what living a life like that must be like. Well I am not personally interested in the lives of celebrities, I do find it helpful to review the things that they have done when it comes to estate planning. Most particularly I find it useful to discover mistakes that can be avoided by regular people as well.

The purpose of this article is to list several famous people who either made some serious estate planning mistakes or did things exactly right. By doing this, I will help educate you about how you can avoid making estate planning mistakes for yourself.

Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze was an American actor that starred in famous movies such as Dirty Dancing, Ghost, Red Dawn, and Roadhouse just to name a few. He died in September of 2009 from pancreatic cancer. According to news reports, Mr. Swayze created his last will and testament about 60 days before his death. As a result, he did not have any type of estate planning in place prior to this time.

While he was able to get his estate planning completed, it was possible that Patrick could have become incapacitated prior to that time. Estate planning documents such as a durable power of attorney, a power of attorney for health care, and a living will could have been vitally important for him. The takeaway for us on this is that we should all complete our estate planning before it becomes an emergency. By doing this, we have some assurance that we are protecting ourselves while we are alive as well as creating a plan to distribute our money, property, and assets to others after we die.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams was also a famous actor that starred in movies such as Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, Good Will Hunting, and Night at the Museum. Robin died in August of 2014 by committing suicide. After he died, it was announced that he had suffered from Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson’s disease. It was also reported that he had completed his estate planning many years before. His estate plan created many trusts for his family and loved ones that would help them avoid probate and would also provide for his loved ones for years to come.

The takeaway from Robin is how important it is to plan ahead. By doing this, even though later in his life it may appear that he had suffered from some forms of incapacity, his estate plan was binding and enforceable. More importantly, his estate planning was thoughtful and created a well-crafted plan for each family member and loved one that he wanted to provide for.

Paul Walker

Another well-known actor that recently passed away is Paul Walker. He was killed in a car crash in 2014 at the age of 40. According to reports Paul Walker had created an estate plan prior to becoming famous. However, the mistake he made was that he did not update his estate planning after fame arrived. Because of this, Paul’s estate was much larger than his original estate planning documents had anticipated. Additionally, his family circumstances had changed. He had a daughter that was born that was unprovided for in his estate planning documents because they were completed before she was born.

The important lesson to learn from Paul is that we must update our estate planning documents regularly so that they need our current circumstances. Anytime we go through a major life change, such as a birth, a death, a marriage, a divorce, or if someone moves away, we should review our estate planning documents and make sure they still accomplish what we want. Based on our change circumstances, we will be able to see very quickly the changes we should make in our estate planning documents to keep them current.


If you do not have an estate plan in place, we can help. When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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