The case of J.R. Ewing and the family jewels. Sounds like an episode of Dallas, right? But now it is actually part of a real-life drama involving the estate planning of the late Larry Hagman. Making the jewels even more valuable is the fact that they once belonged to Hagman’s mother, the legendary actress Mary Martin.
The family is claiming that Hagman’s granddaughter has absconded with a diamond and emerald necklace and matching earrings. The granddaughter claims that a family member gave her the expensive jewels but no one has confirmed her claim.
So how does the family feud of the mega-million dollar estate of a legendary star translate to an average family? Actually it isn’t that difficult to imagine. How many people do you know or have heard of that have been involved in a squabble over a piece of jewelry or an antique, not to mention money, during the settling of an estate? And if it is so common, what can be done to prevent it?
With proper estate planning, the answer can be easy. Instead of listing general categories in your will or trust, be as specific as possible. Instead of “Sister Suzy gets all of mom’s jewelry” write “Sister Suzy gets mom’s wedding ring, the one-carat diamond stud earrings, and the blue sapphire ring.” That way, if the earrings were actually her grandmother’s that were handed down to her mother, the other heirs can’t argue over whether those should be included in mom’s jewelry or left in the estate as the grandmother’s jewelry.
Estate planning can be simplified using effective techniques. Getting advice from an experienced estate planning attorney can be the difference between smooth sailing through the administration of an estate or years of family squabbles and accusations.
So who stole from J.R.? Stay tuned…