Actress Brittany Murphy died tragically at age 32 a few months ago.  Within a day of her passing, celebrity website TMZ reported that Murphy failed to update her will after her marriage to Simon Monjack, her husband of 2 1/2 years.  Instead, her will left everything to her mother.  The Probate Lawyer Blog’s article about it reminded people that updating wills and trusts after important life changes, like a marriage, is very important . . .  even for 32-year olds.  

Brittany Murphy Will

TMZ is now reporting that, according to Monjack, the story wasn’t entirely accurate.  While she did have a prior handwritten will naming her mother as her beneficiary, Murphy did update her estate plan after her marriage, complete with a will and trust.  Monjack said he asked Murphy to include a provision stating “I am married to Simon Monjack who I have intentionally left out of this will.”

That provision was important because, without it, Monjack may still have inherited some of her assets as a “pretermitted spouse”.  By specifically mentioning and disinheriting her husband, Murphy made sure that her estate went to only to her mother.  This language was critical to make sure her wishes were followed (rather than those of the State of California).

With so many examples of celebrity estate planning gone wrong, which we cover extensively in our book, “Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!”, it’s refreshing to see a story of someone who did it right.  “Trial & Heirs” discusses celebrity errors to show you what not to do when planning for your heirs.  But, you can also learn from celebrities like Brittany Murphy who do the proper estate planning.

So what did Murphy do right?

  • She worked with an attorney to create a formal will and trust, rather than relying on a handwritten will;
  • She used a trust, rather than just a will, to avoid probate court (that is, if she properly “funded” the trust during her life);
  • She communicated with her loved ones about her intent and where to find her documents, so there wasn’t confusion and dissension after she passed;
  • She updated her documents after getting married; and
  • She used specific language to make sure her money passed to her mother and not her husband.

Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, television hosts and keynote speakers. You can find them on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. For all the latest celebrity legal news, be sure to check out their blog.

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    Danielle Mayoras is an on-camera legal expert, attorney, author, and keynote speaker. As a respected media source, she has lent her expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, People, Forbes, Kiplinger, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, among many others. She has appeared on Access Hollywood, the Rachael Ray Show, The Insider, CNN, CNN International, NBC Nightly News, Forbes, The Hallmark Channel, ABC’s Live Well Network, CBS, FOX, PBS, and NBC affiliates. Danielle also serves as a legal analyst for CBS News Detroit.

    In addition to co-authoring the best-selling book Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, Danielle has been a contributor to Forbes and other outlets. Danielle has also appeared as a TV host and legal expert on multiple celebrity documentaries for the REELZ Channel. When not doing media, Danielle helps clients in her thriving law firm and serves as a keynote speaker delighting audiences across the country.