In the latest example of celebrities dying without a will in place, may I present Anne Heche. Heche, who died on August 11, 2022, after her car “jumped a curb, smashed into a Los Angeles home and burst into flames”, did not have a will. One of Heche’s two sons, Homer Laffoon, filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court to open a probate for his mother’s estate and requested that he be appointed to administer her estate. The court granted the request.

As is often the case with celebrities who die intestate, complexities have ensued. James Tupper, Heche’s ex-husband and the father of Heche’s younger son, Atlas, filed a petition in the proceeding challenging Laffoon’s appointment and requesting that the court instead appoint him as the administrator.  Tupper argued in court filings that Heche wanted him to be the administrator of her estate based on an email Heche sent to him in January 2011.

“FYI In case I die tomorrow and anyone asks,” the alleged email read. “My wishes are that all of my assets go to the control of Mr. James Tupper to be used to raise my children and then given to the children. They will be divided equally among our children, currently Homer Heche Laffoon and Atlas Heche Tupper, and their portion given to each when they are the age of 25. When the last child turns 25 any house or other properties owned may be sold and the money divided equally among our children.”  –Source: Us Weekly

In Washington, RCW 11.20.020(1) makes clear that an email does not qualify as a will, stating in part “[E]very will shall be in writing signed by the testator or by some other person under the testator’s direction in the testator’s presence or electronic presence, and shall be attested by two or more competent witnesses, by subscribing their names to the will, or by signing an affidavit that complies with RCW 11.20.020(2), while in the presence or electronic presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction or request.” Nor does an email qualify as an electronic will.

As expected, on October 11, 2022, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lee Bogdanoff ruled in favor of Laffoon.

If you need help drafting a proper estate plan, please let us know. We’d be happy to help.

This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.

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