The late L’Wren Scott’s $9 million estate, which she left to boyfriend Mick Jagger in a three-page will, has significant issues that could result in his receiving nothing, according to nationally recognized elder law and estate planning attorney Robert J. Kurre, Esq. of Kurre Schneps LLP in Manhasset, N.Y.
Since Scott’s will does not provide for her brother and sister, she left them with “an invitation to start a lawsuit over her will,” says Kurre. Under New York law the next of kin, who would receive the estate if no will existed, must either consent in writing to the will or they will be served with a citation calling them into court.
“When the next of kin are left out of a will, they often initiate a legal challenge, especially when substantial assets are involved. Disgruntled heirs use this as an opportunity to voice their objection in hopes of a settlement so the beneficiaries named in the will can avoid lengthy, expensive litigation,” he says. “This situation is a cautionary tale to anyone who wishes to disinherit their next of kin or leave assets to them in unequal shares.”
Since Scott committed suicide and her will was prepared less than a year ago, Kurre expects her siblings will claim that she lacked the legal capacity to execute her will. If successful, their lawsuit, which could go on for years, would keep the will from being accepted by the court and her estate would pass equally to them.
Although Scott was a New York resident, she had her will drafted by a California attorney whose specialty is listed as real estate and business law. The attorney had the will hand delivered to Scott while she was at a hotel and she executed it that same day. Since the attorney was not present when Scott signed the will, it is also likely to be challenged, and possibly overturned, on the grounds of not meeting the legal formalities to execute a will.
In addition, Kurre notes that Scott leaving her entire estate outright, rather than in a trust for the benefit of Jagger, was a mistake. “If the will is admitted to probate, she made a wealthy man even richer by leaving the assets outright to him. Jagger’s net worth is estimated to be $305 million according to celebritynetworth.com. Since Jagger will not need the money, the gift made in the will may serve only to increase the value of his estate, resulting in millions of additional dollars in estate taxes due at the time of his death.”
Kurre says Scott could have set up her estate to avoid probate by establishing a revocable trust during her lifetime, which would have acted as a substitute for the will. In that case, her assets would have passed directly to Jagger without a court proceeding, and her brother and sister would not be asked to consent to the will or be served with a court-issued citation. In addition, she could have included a “no contest” clause which provides that if her brother or sister challenged her estate plan and lost, then he or she would get nothing. However, a no contest clause works only if you are willing to leave something of value to the potentially disgruntled heir.
Also, if Scott left her estate in a trust for the benefit of Jagger, the inheritance could have been protected from lawsuits and creditor claims against Jagger and been excluded from his taxable estate. In the trust, Scott could have also directed who would receive the money remaining in the trust upon Jagger’s death, rather than leaving that up to the rock icon.
Kurre cautions that “law, like medicine, has become very specialized, and the benefits of working with a seasoned estate planning attorney to protect a legacy and have your wishes carried out cannot be overstated.”