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By Justin M. Jacobson, Esq.

Picture this, you’re an unmarried professional athlete, no spouse; but, you have three children with three different women and no will. Upon your death chaos ensues, as no specific individual is seen as your “surviving spouse” under the law; so, now the three mothers of the three children have no right to any of your assets. The athlete’s estate and only the surviving heirs (the children) are entitled to collect under the law. Clearly, this poses a potentially costly dilemma, especially if one of the mothers has lived with the deceased prior to his death. This costly crisis is one that prudent estate assistance can avoid or at least mitigate.  Intelligent planning will enable you to ensure your wishes are observed when such is needed.

As the complexities of today’s society continue to evolve and as instances of potentially debilitating injuries with long-term effects continue to rise in the entertainment and sports world, the need to have one’s financial and medical affairs in order to properly care for one’s loved ones when an entertainer or athlete is incapacitated or worse, is even more of a necessity than ever before. Protecting one’s family and finances are truly a paramount concern which frequently gets lost in the midst of a busy career and is rarely effectuated before it is too late.

In order to ensure proper guidelines are adhered to, even when an individual is unable to participate in the conversation, it is critical that an estate is planned properly in advance to provide appropriate assistance for the correct individuals.

Generally, to properly administer an individual’s estate, a will or a trust as well as a living will, health care proxy and power of attorney should be executed to ensure an entertainer’s wishes are adhered to and those he cares for the most are adequately supported. This avoids potentially costly estate battles as well as sheds light on the complex issues that are prevalent in today’s world as they relate to non-martial children and other non-traditional family dynamics.

An individual who fails to execute these documents in advance may find that when they are deceased or permanently incapacitated, their wishes may not be adhered to at all and loved ones they wished were taken care of, are not. This becomes even more complicated when non-martial children and non-nuclear family members are involved in an entertainer’s affairs.

Wills & Trusts

A will is a document that demonstrates the creator’s wishes on how his property is to be disposed of upon his death. It lists how the deceased’s property should be distributed, who has guardianship over any children as well as describes how to handle any non-martial children and other family members. A trust can be created to protect certain assets until a child reaches a particular age or milestone. This is important as it lists how and who receives assets upon an entertainer’s death.

Living Will

A living will is a document that lists the person’s wishes should they be in a terminal condition, permanently unconscious, and/or suffered irreversible brain damage and cannot make their wishes regarding their medical treatment known. This includes the entertainer’s wishes on various medical procedures and treatments, including the use of a feeding tube and the proverbial “pulling the plug” decision. This is important as it provides a medical care provider with appropriate instructions for dealing with an individual who cannot make the decision on their own at that moment.

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is a document that empowers an individual(s) to make decisions  on behalf of an incapacitated entertainer’s, all based on the wishes expressed. In New York, for instance, when a “significant other” is not married, this is crucial. Two people can be living together as husband and wife for decades; but, if they are not married, the hospital can be very uncooperative. This is important as it authorizes a specific individual to handle these sensitive and timely matters when an individual cannot. It is also crucial because it gives someone the power to make decisions as to health care.

Power Of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that permits an individual to act on behalf of an incapacitated individual in making necessary business and other important decisions that affect the incapacitated individual’s livelihood. During a brief disability, this can enable the individual to have their bills paid and to withdraw funds from bank accounts and other financial institutions. This is important as it determines who shall run an individual’s business and personal affairs when they cannot.

In conclusion, as an entertainer or athlete, especially those with potentially large estates, one should ensure that their affairs are in order. You never know when the ride is going to end and as they say, preparation is the key to success. Also, even with small estates, you want to ensure that your loved ones aren’t left out in the cold or forced to fight for their survival.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.

© 2015 The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

About the author

Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. - Vice-President, The Jacobson Firm, P.C. - Attorney Specializing in Entertainment, Sports, Esports, Fashion and Art Law. In particular, The Jacobson Firm, P.C. handles Trademarks, Copyrights, Contracts, Estate Planning, Music Business and Brand Development on behalf of creative talent and lifestyle brands.

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