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Celebrity Estates Part II: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Part II – Sonny Bono

Clients often ask me whether they need a Will or not.  Although the answer is different for everyone, I am a strong believer that not everyone needs a Will or even a Trust.  In the case of Sonny Bono, he probably needed both types of documents but had neither.  Here is what happened…

Sonny Bono was no stranger to success.  He was a wildly successful entertainer throughout the 70’s and 80’s.  Then in 1988, he started a political career which included mayor of Palm Springs, California, and later a Member of Congress.  He died in 1998 in a tragic skiing accident.

After his death, Sonny’s third wife, Mary, set out to collect assets, pay bills and issue a distribution.  But without a Will or Trust, she had no set of instructions from Sonny to accomplish these goals.  She initially identified the estate as having a value of $1.7 million, which included music rights which she did not have the authority to exercise without specific permission from the probate judge.  Instead of grieving his loss, Mary needed to immediately open the probate estate, work out the details with the mortuary, deal with the paparazzi and handle legitimate press inquiries, all while parenting two minor children.  Later she had to defend a claim from Cher who felt that she was still owed money from their divorce and defend a claim from an allegedly illegitimate child.

Although many of us do not have estates that have the level of complexity like Sonny Bono, it is usually quite helpful to those that we leave behind when they need to sort through the details of our lives to give them our own set of instructions.  Regardless if what documents are needed, take the time to learn about them and put the ones you need in place.  Your loved ones will thank you.

Do you have a Will or Trust in place to protect what matters in your life?

For assitance with estate planning please contact my office at


Linda M. Strohschein

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