Heath Ledger’s Story
In 2009 Australian actor Heath Ledger became the first person ever to win an Oscar posthumously, for his role as the Joker in the Dark Knight.
Heath had died of an accidental overdose of prescription medications a few months earlier at the age of only 28. He had made a will in 2003, which provided that 50% of his estate was to go to his three sisters and 50% to his parents.
However, in 2004, when he was making the movie Brokeback Mountain, he formed a relationship with his co-star, Michelle Williams. Heath and Michelle had a daughter, Matilda, in 2005 but ultimately, they broke up in 2007. Unfortunately, at no time did Heath update his will to provide for his daughter.
Heath Ledger’s estate was valued at $20 million when he died, and it was anticipated that Michelle would challenge the will on behalf of Matilda.
Fortunately, litigation was avoided when Heath Ledger’s parents and sisters very generously decided to renounce their claims under his will and give the entire estate to Heath’s young daughter Matilda.
Lawyer’s comment: When your life circumstances change, you should review your will to make sure it reflects your current wishes and situation. Although the Ledger family behaved admirably, not all families would be so selfless when it comes to a large inheritance promised in a will. No one plans to die in their 20s, but it happens.