In recent years, several authors have experienced commercial success that most aspiring authors can only dream of achieving. In February of 2018 the final film in the Fifty Shades trilogy based on the book series of the same name premiered, earning $322.9 million in less than a month.  The book series and its adaptions have earned author turned producer E. L. James an estimated $95 million.

Much adapted author Stephen King had one of his largest commercial successes in the form of It: Chapter One which grossed over $700 million, adding to the international bestselling author’s $400 million net worth. While both authors have enjoyed financial success, others have experienced similar triumphs. Unfortunately, poor planning has led to some authors being affected by probate mistakes that seriously harmed their loved ones.

Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy was a prolific novelist who wrote over a dozen novels that sold millions of copies and led to praise from former President Ronald Reagan. Several of his books were adapted into films that starred Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, and Morgan Freeman. When Clancy passed away in 2013, he left behind five children, an ex-wife, a widow, and an estate valued at $83 million. The author did leave behind a detailed estate plan that was designed to protect his estate from certain taxes, but unclear documentation led to a legal dispute between Clancy’s four children from his first marriage and his wife (guardian of the one minor child they had together) at the time of his death.

Stieg Larsson

Karl Stig-Erland (Stieg) Larsson was a journalist and author whose posthumously published Millennium Trilogy consisting of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest became internationally acclaimed bestsellers.  When the author passed away in 2004 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 50, he was living with his partner, Eva Gabrielsson, and had a will written in 1977 that left his assets to a branch of the Swedish Socialist Party.

Since his will was not witnessed, it was declared invalid and his estate was left to his brother and father who were his closest surviving relatives. His partner Eva disputed the decision, but because they were not legally married, there was no way for Eva to recover any part of the inheritance. Had Larsson properly executed his initial will by having it witnessed, or created an updated will to include his partner, his estate would not have automatically been turned over to his relatives.

Protect Your Assets

Authors, artists, and anyone with assets, even if they are royalties or digital, should consult a probate lawyer to ensure that their loved ones are able to receive their assets in the manner they would approve of after their passing. In the cases of both Tom Clancy and Stieg Larsson, steps were taken to leave property to those they felt would benefit the most from their assets.  Unfortunately, their mistakes led to probate courts making decisions that did not accurately reflect their initial intentions. The team at MMZ Law is here to provide you legal advice during a confidential appointment. Contact our Claremont, California office today to schedule your initial consultation so that we can begin finding ways to protect and transfer your assets.




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MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.