The unexpected death of Joan Rivers on September 4, 2014 was a shock to us all. Legendary comedienne, she spent her long life bringing laughter to millions of Americans with frequently irreverent roasting of her fellow celebrities (actress Elizabeth Taylor, in particular!). The 81-year-old was well known for her peculiarities, but the one that is alleged to have led to her death was her unique penchant for plastic surgery–a botched surgery stole her light from our lives.

Alive, Rivers reveled in exposure. Few were safe from her acerbic wit and the private lives of her peers never remained so for long with her in earshot. However, her attitude toward her death has now been shown markedly different. Unlike many unfortunate celebrities, her fortune–approximated to be over $150 million–purposefully avoided falling into the public eye. The reason? Joan thought ahead and kept much of the distribution of her wealth under wraps by use of a family trust.

She did, of course, leave a number of tantalizing tidbits behind that have got the gossip columns gabbing. Announced in late 2014, the barebones of the will were made publicly available. In it, Rivers named three co-executors to manage her estate: her daughter, Melissa Rivers, and two of her closest friends. Distributions of any remaining assets were left to the trustee of the Rosenberg Family Trust (established using Rivers’ married name) after all taxes and expenses had been made. Interestingly, she took a highly aggressive stance to prevent familial discord: anyone who made to contest the contents of her will would be entirely disinherited.

Other named beneficiaries of the trust include a number of charitable organizations, Rivers’ niece, nephew, grandson, and five employees. None of the amounts were specified.

Given her 81 years of experience in life, Rivers had no doubt seen enough of the trainwreck scandals that can follow a celebrity’s death and decided that her name would not be among them. Her apt estate planning left her most personal wishes out of the tabloids and protected her loved ones from too much unwanted media attention or contentious court battles. In using a private trust, she provided her daughter “the broadest and most absolute permissible direction” over the disposition of the trust estates.

You don’t need to be as rich and famous as Joan Rivers to make use of the tools proper estate planning offers. You want your loved ones to be protected and provided for, and a trust might be just the way to do it–some of the most notable benefits include:

  • Far greater control of the specifics of the distribution of your estate following your passing–including the “how” and the “when”;
  • Reduction of Estate and Gift Taxes;
  • Complete avoidance of the probate system–saving you the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars that it can cost;
  • The designation of a manager of the assets in your trust upon your death–or, if you would like, your incapacitation;
  • The potential for broad-reaching protection from creditors;
  • A level of privacy above and beyond that afforded by a will, which must go through probate.

The best way to learn about establishing a trust for your family is to talk with us about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Whether you are looking for immediate assistance or are simply looking into the matter for the first time, give us a call at 612-206-3700 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

“Joan Rivers 2010 – David Shankbone” by David Shankbone – Cropped from Joan Rivers at Musto’s 25th Anniversary. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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