Betty White—an American icon, comedian, and beloved Golden Girl—was the pinnacle of physical and mental health for her age, never failing to miss a beat or crack a witty joke. Thus, when Betty passed away on December 31, 2021, just shy of three weeks from her 100th birthday, the unexpected news came as a shock to the world—everyone thought this spunky, upbeat 99-year-old would live forever.
What was Betty’s secret to a long, happy life? Being optimistic. Rather than complaining, Betty chose to focus on and emphasize the positives of each day. Unsurprisingly, she also revealed that humor kept her young and her mind sharp. Nevertheless, no one, not even the great Betty White, can escape the inevitable.
Betty was married three times but decided not to have any biological children due to ambitious career goals and opportunities. She remained with her last husband, Allen Ludden, up until his death in 1981. Upon his death, Betty took his children as her own. Since Betty did not have any biological children and does not have a surviving spouse—meaning she is left with no legal heirs—who will inherit her estimated $75 million fortune? Did she have a last will and testament or estate plan prepared?
Although Betty had an optimistic view on life, she did not ignore the inevitable. Prior to her passing, Betty had allegedly set her will and estate plans in order. A full estate plan includes a collection of legal documents, such as a trust, a last will and testament, property deeds, a designation of power-of-attorney, and a living will. Each document serves its own individual legal purpose, yet each generally carries out the person’s living or post-death wishes. For example, a last will and testament outlines the distribution of property and assets to specified individuals after the testator’s death, while a living will states the person’s end-of-life medical directives in the event that the person is incapacitated. Overall, an estate plan could save a decedent’s family from initiating the probate process, which is lengthy and expensive.
Betty’s will has not been revealed to the public, and her funeral will be handled privately. Nonetheless, there are rumors circulating that Betty had updated her will after her 99th birthday to ensure her pets are taken care of upon her passing. Betty was known for her unconditional love and compassion for her pets, so maybe she also had a pet trust set in place, which is a legal arrangement to care for pets in the event of the owner’s disability or death. Close sources have revealed that Betty has left the majority of her assets and money to charitable causes; as an animal activist, Betty is expected to donate a chunk of her fortune to animal rights organizations like the ASPCA.
Since Betty’s legal affairs remain a secret, we can only speculate that Betty specified in her estate plans whether or not she desired for her stepchildren to inherit a portion of her fortune. If Betty hypothetically had not prepared an estate plan, specifically a will, her stepchildren would automatically have been left empty-handed since most states’ intestacy laws do not recognize stepchildren, unless legally adopted, as legal heirs.
Betty White’s passing has shown us the reality of the circle of life—great people come and go, and we need to expect the unexpected. Estate plans are a way to ensure that loved ones, whether people or furry friends, are cared for after death. Call us at (786) 837-6787 to set up an estate plan now!