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John Wayne | Wills of the Rich and Famous

Attorney Thomas B. Burton looks at the will of Hollywood legend John Wayne on the latest episode of Wills of the Rich and Famous. In this educational video series Attorney Burton uses examples from the Wills of the rich and famous to illustrate important estate planning principles that individuals can learn from and implement in their own estate planning.

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Welcome back to Wills of the Rich and Famous.

I'm your host attorney Thomas Burton and today we're going to be looking at the will of the Duke, John Wayne himself.

So continuing our series as we look through the wills of the rich and famous, I'm an estate planning attorney here in Wisconsin and we're using illustrations from this book I found on amazon, to learn estate planning lessons that you can apply for your own estate.

So the author always lists a little biographical information about each person, before discussing the will and I'm going to read you a little excerpt of it without going in through the whole thing.

It says, "Despite the all-American image, Wayne had been divorced twice and his will indicates his third marriage was on shaky ground. Wayne's will begins - I am married to Pilar Wayne but she and I are separated and for this reason, I intentionally make no provision in this will for her. I have seven children whose names in respective birth dates are as follows" and then it lists them below. "The first four of the above named children, are the issue of my former marriage with Josephine Wayne." An issue is the legal term of art we use in a will to refer to offspring, children. "The last three of the above named children are the issue of my marriage with said Pilar. I and all of my said children except Mary Antonia LaCava and Melinda and Muñoz are sometimes also known by the surname Morrison."

And the author says, "Wayne's wife Pilar Pallete Wayne was born in Peru. Wayne's first two wives, Josephine Sáenz and Esperanza Baur were also Latin-Americans."

Based on the provisions of the will, it looks like The Duke favored his eldest son Michael. Michael is named as co-executor of his father's will and was appointed custodian of any minor child's funds and received a bequest of Wayne's preferred stock in his film company Batjac Productions Inc. Wayne divides his tangible personal property including any motion picture memorabilia or items whose value arises primarily from their connection with my motion picture career but not including any painting, sculpture, American-Indian artifacts and other items having intrinsic merit and value, equally among his seven children. Those excluded art objects were to be donated to a charitable organization selected by the executors.

So you can see when you're a movie star these items of tangible personal property have a lot of value for a movie star like John Wayne, items related to his movie career. So you're going to need extra language in there, dealing with those items.

Now for many normal people, the items of tangible personal property have worth but perhaps not as much worth, certainly as a movie star but they can have sentimental value. So it's important in your will to have a clause saying how you want the tangible personal property divided or in your trust, you can avoid probate on all those items by assigning them to the Trust.

Now it says in the will, Wayne makes a $10,000 bequest to a former secretary and a $30,000 bequest to his current secretary. Wayne establishes a trust fund for the benefit of former wife Josephine Morrison which was to pay her the sum of $3,000 per month with the remainder to pass to her four children after her death. So that's another important aspect here, he set up this trust for a former wife, paid to her for life but when I'm working with clients, I always say what happens if she would pass away, do you want it to go to the residue, the remainder of the trust or be split among some other people and in this case, he said split it among her four children which are also his children but the four he had with her.

Then it says, living up to his reputation as a gunslinger, Wayne's will includes a final In Terrorem Clause, stating and you'll recall this In Terrorem Clause, we discussed in a previous episode which means 'Fear' in Latin and is designed to avoid people suing, to try to get a larger portion under the will and Wayne's In Terrorem Clause says, "If any beneficiary under this will, in any manner, directly or indirectly, contests or attacks this will or any of its provisions, any share or interest in my estate, given to that contesting beneficiary, under this will is revoked and shall be disposed of in the same manner provide here and as if that contesting beneficiary had pre-deceased me without issue." So what that's saying is, if anyone contests the will and what John Wayne has laid out, they will be treated as if they're not named in the will at all, meaning no inheritance, predeceasing him like they predeceased him, with no issue, meaning nothing to them, nothing to the kids or grandkids or anyone else down that family line.

So these In Terrorem Clauses again, are designed to make a beneficiary think twice before they would sue to try to get more under will than what the person who made the will left them and in this case with Wayne leaving equal division among the seven children, I think it would likely be a very strong factor to dissuade them from bringing a lawsuit to try to get more. So you can consider using an In Terrorem Clause or what we call a No Contest Clause, in your own will or trust and I suggest discussing it with your attorney when you meet them, with them to design your estate plan.

So that's the will of John Wayne, The Duke in this week's episode of Wills of the Rich and Famous. Again, this series is designed to educate and inform in an interesting and fun manner as we go through the wills of the rich and famous and see how they use various estate planning terms and provisions to provide a plan for their beneficiaries, after they're gone.

Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.

© 2021 Burton Law LLC. All Rights Reserved. Transcript and captions provided for ease of access for the hearing impaired. For questions about this topic, or to suggest a topic for a future blog post, please contact the office.

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