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Wills of the Rich and Famous

To finish up the series on wills, I thought you might enjoy reading about the wills of a few famous people.

In addition to serving as a roadmap for the disposition of a decedent's assets, a will can also be used as a vehicle to express love or gratitude by giving property of monetary value to specified surviving relatives, friends, or institutions. For instance, actress Marilyn Monroe showed her devotion to her acting teacher, Lee B. Strasberg, by giving him all her tangible personal property and 75% of her estate, to be disposed of as he wished. Famous financier, J. P. Morgan, had several individual bequests in his will and every employee of J. P. Morgan & Co., was reportedly given an extra year’s salary.

Gifts made under a will can be of special sentimental value. Comedian Groucho Marx, who once said that he would not want to belong to any club that would have him as a member, specifically bequeathed his membership in the swanky Hillcrest Country Club in Beverly Hills to his son. Fellow comedian, W. C. Fields, whose death was partly attributable to his excessive drinking, expressly gifted one-third of “my liquor” to each of three of his drinking buddies. William Shakespeare left his wife his second best bed.

Provisions of the will can be random. A Portuguese man picked 70 names out of the phone book and named those individuals as his heirs. In Finland, residents of a nursing home were left shares of stock in a rubber boot company. The rubber boot company later became Nokia and the residents became rich.

Pets can be the beneficiary of wills. Leona Helmsley left $12 million dollars in trust for her dog Trouble. There are now attorneys who specialize in the area of setting up trusts for pets.

It was first said by founding father, Benjamin Franklin, that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. However, by establishing a good estate plan that includes giving money to charities and charitable foundations, a good portion of the certainty of taxes mentioned by Mr. Franklin can be eliminated.

CLICK HERE to read part 1 of the series on wills (Do You Need a Will?)
CLICK HERE to read part 2 of the series on wills (Social Media Wills)

-By Beverly DeVeny


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Consumers: Send in Your Questions to [email protected]

I transferred a stock from my IRA to my regular (non IRA account) and then transferred the exact same number of shares of the same stock back into my IRA within 60 days. However, the value of those shares was $10,000 higher.

Do I have a problem because I put more money into the IRA even though I transferred the same number of shares?


There is no problem. Your distribution of property (shares of stock) from your IRA qualifies to be rolled over tax-free within 60 days only if the identical stock is rolled over to a receiving IRA. It is common for the value of stock to change during the 60-day window. That’s OK and still qualifies as a tax-free rollover. When your tax return is filed for the year, your tax preparer may want to attach a note to explain the different values.