OJ Simpson’s estate and how wills work after someone passes away

Wills go through the probate court process when someone passes away with assets in their individual name.  The reason that we have all been able to view OJ Simpson’s will is that the probate court is a public process.  This means that his will is on file for the world to see.  In fact, sometime in the near future, an inventory will be filed in Simpson’s estate so we will see the assets in the probate court as well.  Even though we  may not be as high-profile as Simpson, it works the same way for all of us so anyone can view our wills, including nosy neighbors and estranged family members.

If probate court is public, how can we keep our estate planning private?

If we create a revocable living trust and transfer our assets into the trust, then we can avoid the probate court.  What was interesting about Simpson’s will was that the beneficiary of his will was his revocable living trust.  This tells us that assets were not transferred into his trust before he passed away, which isn’t surprising considering that he just signed his estate planning documents a few months before he passed away.  This type of will is called a pour-over will because the assets will pour from probate court into his trust.

Are the provisions of OJ Simpson’s will pretty typical?

Overall, yes.  One of the clauses that has captured some of the  public attention is the “no contest” clause.  This is a clause that is frequently used by estate planning attorneys which basically says that if any beneficiaries contest a will, then they will lose their inheritance.  In Simpson’s case, the beneficiaries would receive one dollar.  In our law firm, we typically use this provision in all of our estate planning documents and it works well to make sure that our clients’ wishes are followed.

There has been a lot in the news about OJ Simpson’s creditors, including the Goldman family, how does this work in the probate court?

When you are in the probate court, the administration of the will has to follow the probate court rules.  This means that creditors will have the opportunity to file claims against the estate and have the right to be paid before the beneficiaries receive any money.  There are some creditors that have higher priorities to get paid than others under the probate court rules.  The big question is how much money will be part of Simpson’s probate estate because the inventory hasn’t been filed yet.  There could also be significant assets that were already funded into his trust and other assets that avoid the probate court because of beneficiary designations.

Is it unusual for someone like OJ Simpson to have a will?

Not in this case.  Simpson had a specific type of will that accompanies a trust called a pour-ver will.  Ideally, this never would have been used, but obviously all of his assets were not tranfererd into his trust before he passed away.  We also saw this in Michael Jackson’s estate.  You can read more about that here.

If I want to avoid probate court, what should I do?

Make sure to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a revocable living trust and do not forget to transfer your assets into the trust.  You should consult with your attorney as far as which assets to transfer into your trust and how to do this so it fits your estate planning goals.  If you are located in Michigan or Florida, we can help.

Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, legal media experts, and keynote speakers.  You can find them on Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.  For all of the latest legal news, be sure to check out their blog.




    Danielle Mayoras is an on-camera legal expert, attorney, author, and keynote speaker. As a respected media source, she has lent her expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, People, Forbes, Kiplinger, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, among many others. She has appeared on Access Hollywood, the Rachael Ray Show, The Insider, CNN, CNN International, NBC Nightly News, Forbes, The Hallmark Channel, ABC’s Live Well Network, CBS, FOX, PBS, and NBC affiliates. Danielle also serves as a legal analyst for CBS News Detroit.

    In addition to co-authoring the best-selling book Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, Danielle has been a contributor to Forbes and other outlets. Danielle has also appeared as a TV host and legal expert on multiple celebrity documentaries for the REELZ Channel. When not doing media, Danielle helps clients in her thriving law firm and serves as a keynote speaker delighting audiences across the country.