It’s not just the rich and famous who need a will

There is only one sure fire way to ensure your loved ones are looked after when you pass away, and that is to ensure you have drafted a legally binding will. Yet less than half of people in the UK actually have one, perhaps because it is human nature to put off today what we can (hopefully) do tomorrow. Combine that tendency with the cost of professional fees for drafting a Will and inertia is almost guaranteed.

However, none of us will live forever, and the reality is that the cost of drafting a Will is remarkably inexpensive, particularly for those of us with relatively simple affairs (from £125+VAT). If you don’t have a Will your loved ones may struggle to get legal control of your assets causing further heartache, delays and possible family disagreements at what is already a very difficult time.

Over the years, there have been a number of high profile cases of celebrities dying without leaving a will, resulting in family fall outs and sometimes, undeserving claimants.

Here are our top 5:

Bob Marley

Upon passing from cancer in 1981 aged just 36, Bob Marley’s estate continues to generate significant amounts of revenue.

Despite knowing he had the disease for 8 months, Bob Marley never made a will. His $30m estate had dozens of claimants, including three children by his wife Rita and three more by different mothers.

Pablo Picasso

World famous artist Pablo Picasso died in 1973 aged 91. He died intestate having left no will, leaving artwork, numerous homes, bonds, gold and cash reserves with no legal heirs.

6 years later and at a cost of $30m, his assets were finally distributed to 6 heirs.

Steig Larsson

Steig Larsson was the Swedish author of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ series, later transformed into Hollywood blockbusters. As he died intestate, Swedish law dictated his fortune go to his father rather than his partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, as they were not married.

To bring this closer to home, the same happened to British journalist Jill Dando’s estate.

Rik Mayall

Comedian Rik Mayall died suddenly in 2014 of heart failure aged 56. The star of ‘The Young Ones’ didn’t have a will to administer his £1.2m estate, leaving his family with a potentially large Inheritance Tax bill.

Abraham Lincoln

America’s 16th President holds two unwanted firsts. Not only was he the first President to suffer assassination, he was also the first President to die intestate, despite being a lawyer himself.

In addition to these famous cases of dying intestate, there are also high profile cases of those not updating their wills before they died.

Hollywood actor Heath Leger’s daughter Matilda did not feature in his will as it was made before her birth.

Princess Diana also had a will, however when she died in 1997 she also left a ‘letter of wishes’ for her Godchildren, but unfortunately this was not legally binding.

So the moral of the story is, famous or not, everyone should have a will. It will spare loved ones from further heartache and ensure your estate is distributed how you want it to be. Even if you already have a will, it is important to revisit it when circumstances in your life change to ensure no-one is left out.

Sutton McGrath Hartley is a multi-disciplinary firm of chartered accountants, financial advisers and lawyers offering comprehensive financial expertise for all business, personal and family interests. Our specialist Wills & Probate department can help with wills, trusts and estate planning. To discuss your requirements please contact Ben Schofield on 0114 266 4432 or

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