Dennis Hopper, known for his role in Easy Rider, wanted to leave his fortune to his family. Well, not everyone in his family. Hopper made numerous estate planning changes in the last months of his life. His goal? To make sure his heirs shared his approximately $40 million in wealth and that his fifth, and current wife, Victoria, did not.
The 5th Marriage Isn’t Always the Charm…
At least that was the case between Hopper and his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper, who was six years younger than Hopper’s oldest daughter from a previous marriage. It’s a long and rather ugly story, so let’s just touch on the highlights:
- Hopper divorces four times and has several children.
- Hopper marries Duffy, who is younger than all of the above children, and they have a daughter together.
- Things go bad. Hopper files for divorce, accusing Duffy of being insane, inhuman, and volatile. He obtains a restraining order against her, but she refuses to move out of the home.
- Things get worse. Victoria responds by claiming that Dennis is not mentally competent. She alleges that his adult children from his prior marriages improperly influenced him to file for divorce and suggested that he change his estate plan. She claims their motive was to cut Victoria out of his estate as well as the couple’s six-year-old daughter.
- Hopper, at age 73, dies of cancer while all of this was happening.
Although Hopper died before this ordeal was over, he did some very smart things during the divorce process to ensure that his children received the bulk of his wealth. What he did applies to everyone.
Don’t Wait to Update Your Estate Plan!
Hopper made numerous changes to his estate planning documents instead of waiting for his divorce to be final. These included:
- Changing his life insurance beneficiary designation
- Making sure Duffy was not listed in his will or trust as a beneficiary
- Verifying that his prenuptial agreement was in order
In the end, Duffy sued the estate for, well, everything and anything she could. When all was said and done, she settled with the estate, but for much less than she wanted. The majority of Hopper’s estate went where he wanted it to go – to his children. The lesson learned? Don’t wait to update your estate plan. Take action!
We Have the Tools and Advice You Need
It is imperative to update your estate plan documents when any significant or life changing events occur such as:
- income changes
- circumstantial changes (to the health or wealth of loved ones)
- change of state of residence
Even if you haven't experienced anything “significant” since you last updated your estate plan, changes in the law (especially tax law) may make re-evaluating your estate plan a smart thing to do. We have the tools you need to make sure that your wishes are carried out after your death.