The recent death of Joan Rivers has left her family, friends, admirers, and fans grieving her loss. It has also provided an insight for those of us interested in estate planning. Even though Rivers was a well-known, beloved, and wealthy celebrity, she appears to have utilized estate planning tools that are available to everyone, and which convey significant privacy benefits.
Rivers’ Medical Choices
Joan Rivers was a well-known personality for decades, and had apparently been rather open about a number of her estate planning wishes. She died from a complication arising from a medical procedure she had undergone in Manhattan, after she had become comatose and placed on life support.
Though it has not been confirmed, it appears that Rivers had granted her only daughter, Melissa Rivers, the power to make medical decisions on her mother’s behalf should Joan become incapacitated. Rivers had apparently been quite clear in her public statements on the issue that she didn’t want to be kept on life support, and it appears that those wishes were respected.
Joan Rivers’ Estate and Privacy Concerns
A lot of people are worried about maintaining their privacy when they create an estate plan. Luckily, estate plans don’t necessarily have to be made public. For example, while the terms of a last will and testament will become a matter of public record once it is submitted to a probate court, there is no requirement that you use a will to distribute your estate. You can, for example, use one or more types of trusts as the primary way through which you make inheritance choices.
Though Rivers was often vocal about her estate planning wishes, it appears that her estate plan relied on tools that allowed her to maintain her privacy. For example, if she used advance medical directives to give her daughter the authority to make medical choices for her, those directives are private documents that do not have to be approved by, or submitted to, a court.
Similarly, it appears that Rivers used trusts to distribute her estimated $150 million estate to her daughter and her grandson. If Rivers did leave behind a last will and testament, it will most likely reveal that she didn’t rely on its terms as her primary means to distribute inheritances.
Rivers and Pet Planning
It also appears that Rivers left behind a pet trust that would care for her four dogs. Rivers had been vocal about her affection for her animals, and apparently used a trust to protect them and provide for their need after she was gone. As with all the other tools Rivers had developed, pet trusts are available for anyone concerned about the health and well being of their beloved animals, and are private documents.
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