British pop star George Michael passed away from natural causes at age 53 on December 25, 2016. His body was discovered at home by his boyfriend, Fadi Fawaz, when he came to pick him up for brunch. Since his death, there has reportedly been a lot of acrimony between Fawaz and Michael’s family. Fawaz was snubbed from the funeral, is banned from visiting the cemetery, and the family is reportedly considering taking legal action to have him removed from Michael’s multi-million-dollar townhouse.
Since Michael’s death, Fawaz has been living in the townhouse, claiming he had an agreement with his boyfriend to do so. Michael’s family claims Fawaz is not named as a beneficiary in the will, although it has not yet been filed for probate. At the moment, then, it’s one person’s word against another’s. And, it’s doubtful that Fawaz’s verbal claim would hold water against a written will, even though Fawaz claims Michael specifically told him he wanted him to use the property. It would be a different situation if Michael had put that statement in writing. Unfortunately, he didn’t.
This story is an excellent example of why everyone should have a will that’s regularly updated.
However, Michael’s huge celebrity status throws an interesting twist into this situation.
In order to enforce a will, it must go through probate—which means it becomes public. So, once Michael’s family opens the will, everyone in the general public who cares to find out will know what’s in it. Perhaps Michael did leave the house to Fawaz. Perhaps he didn’t. After probate, they will know Michael’s wishes and Fawaz can decide if he’d like to contest the will if he doesn’t like the results.
A living trust, however, provides lifetime and after-death management of your assets and property. A trust places your assets into a trust managed by you for your lifetime. After your death, it passes on to a named beneficiary who divides up your assets according to your wishes. The benefit of a living trust is that it remains private after your death and does not have to go through probate.
Both wills and living trusts have their advantages and disadvantages, and a knowledgeable probate attorney can help you decide what’s best for you and your situation. You don’t need to be a celebrity to need a detailed will or trust. Everyone should.
Probate administration or understanding wills and trust can be complicated. Having a skilled and experienced Chattanooga probate lawyer from Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law on your side can make the experience easier. We serve clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN and all surrounding counties. Call us today at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation.