Lou Reed Leaves $30 million—and Only a Will
Lou Reed, famous for 70’s hits like “Walk on the Wild Side,” died on October 27, 2013, leaving behind an estate worth at least $30 million that generated around $20 million in income since he died. Wealth like that is often secured by a complex estate plan, designed to reduce the possibility of disputes and avoid probate and litigation.
Many celebrities spark massive probate litigation after they pass away by either planning too little for someone of their wealth or cutting someone out of the plan who thought they should be included. These cases often end up in trust litigation, since the wealthy often use revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts as their preferred planning devices.
The strange thing about Lou Reed’s estate plan is that it was solely comprised of a will. According to news reports, Mr. Reed didn’t have even a revocable living trust.
So what’s the result for Mr. Reed’s surviving family members and loved ones? First, the process in probate court (called Surrogacy Court in New York, where Mr. Reed’s estate is being administered) is entirely public. Reporters, jealous members of his extended family, and unscrupulous people all have access to the particulars of Mr. Reed’s estate.
Second, a will is typically administered in probate court. In contrast, trusts are typically administered outside the probate court, privately. If someone wants to challenge the trust, they’ll need to know about the trust and file a lawsuit. When a will is administered in probate court, the estate is already the subject of a probate court proceeding, which often requires or allows notice of the proceeding and an opportunity to object or challenge the Will to be sent to heirs and other interested persons.
There’s no sign that probate litigation is pending in the case of Lou Reed’s estate, but regardless of the size of the estate it’s essential that a will contest be brought within specific time limits. Miss those deadlines, and your rights may be lost forever. If you have a contested or contentious probate in Arizona, please contact us for a consultation with one of our probate litigation attorneys.