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Update on Anne Heche's Probate Nightmare

Although celebrity cases tend to drag on for months, the first wrinkle in Anne Heche's probate case has been resolved in an unusually timely fashion! Only a few days after her death this past August, the issue in front of the court was whether Heche's oldest son, Homer, would be the administrator of her estate, or if her youngest son's father, James Tupper, was a better candidate. The court ruled in favor of Homer.

To give you some background,a few days after his mother's death, Homer asked the court to be appointed the representative of his mother's estate. Tupper, filed a countermotion stating, among other things, that Heche wrote a will, by email, and asked him to take care of the kids and her estate. Tupper also alleged that Homer was mishandling Heche's personal property, including over $200,000 in jewelry that he believes went missing.

The court ruled in favor of Homer and appointed him the general administrator while reserving the right to remove him if any proof of wrongdoing is brought to the attention of the court.

The court has yet to rule on the issue of the validity of the will. However, it seems unlikely that an email communication, if it exists, would be considered a valid will in the State of California.

Had Anne created, at a minimum, a valid and legally enforceable will, a lof of the battles expected in her probate, including the one just decided, could have been avoided. She could have named a trusted administrator, and determined how her assets were to be distributed. However, a will would have still meant that her minor son, Atlas, would still need to obtain a guardian ad litem, and a court appointed conservator until he is 18 years old.

Ideally, Anne should have worked with an estate planning attorney and created a trust. This trust would be able to handle all of Anne's property, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, etc... The trust would name a successor trustee who would administer those assets privately and outside of the courts, until both her sons were adults. She could have also attached conditions making the inheritance dependent on life achievements, such as graduating from college.

Heche's failure to create an estate plan means the administration of her assets is left to a judge and is exposed to any creditor or predator who may file claims against the estate. All of which deplete her estate and drag on the process.

If you're like Heche (or 67% of Americans) and don't have a will or trust in place, what are you waiting for? You don't need to be rich and famous to need an estate plan. If you own anything at all, or have minor kids, you have an estate that needs to be planned for. Leave a legacy of peace for your family. Meet with us to create your estate plan and ensure your loved ones are out-of-court and out-of-conflict in the event of your incapacity or when you die.

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