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Fishkind quoted extensively in insuranceNewsNet Magazine

Estate Planning Failures of the Rich and Famous

Russell J. Fishkind, a partner in the Personal Wealth, Estates and Trusts Practice, was a source for this article about famous estate planning failures that resulted in litigation and family acrimony.

Fishkind, who wrote the book, Probate Wars of the Rich & Famous: An Insider’s Guide to Estate Planning and Probate Litigation, discussed his reaction to a feud among the children of the late baseball player Ted Williams, who said that he wished to be cremated upon his death. Instead, two of his children produced a handwritten note in which Ted Williams allegedly said he wanted to be cryogenically frozen.

“When I first got a copy of this note, I thought I had a bad copy, but that’s not the case,” Fishkind says in the article. “There are four or five blobs of oil on this note.” The note, according to the article, is contrary to what Ted Williams had written in his will: “I direct that my remains be cremated and my ashes sprinkled at sea off the coast of Florida where the water is very deep.”

People can learn two things from Williams’ case, Fishkind said. The first is to document wishes clearly, which he had done. But then those wishes have to be known. Make sure certain people have quick access to the will so that someone cannot come in and undermine true intentions.

Fishkind also commented on the estate of the late Whitney Houston, which left her $20 million to her 19-year-old daughter, to be paid out when her daughter was 21, 25 and 30 years old. The estate was challenged by Whitney’s mother, who said it would make the teenager a target for people trying to influence her. Fishkind said one way to avoid misinterpreting a will is to videotape the person explaining his or her reasoning.