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Posted 10/30/2023

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes Part II: Sonny Bono

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes Part II: Sonny Bono

Sonny Bono Packed A Lot Of Living Into His 62 Years On This Earth

He was a singer, songwriter, television star, restaurateur, mayor, and Congressman from the state of California. Though Bono is famous for the song he and his second wife, Cher, made popular – I Got You Babe – he didn’t take care of his wife and children. His celebrity estate planning mistake? Failing to draw up a Will.

The Man

Salvatore “Sonny” Bono was born in Detroit, though his family moved to California when he was a young child.

Mr. Bono’s began his career as a songwriter, then moved on to performing with his wife, Cher. The two had several hit television shows, though they divorced in the early 70s. Mr. Bono next became an actor, then a politician. In addition to serving as the Mayor of Palm Springs, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.

His Estate

When Mr. Bono died due to a skiing accident, he was worth approximately $2 million dollars. He left behind a wife, Mary, and three children: Chastity (now Chaz) Bono, Chesare Elan Bono, and Christy Bono Fasce. His tragic loss was further complicated because he had never prepared an estate plan or even just a will.

The Estate Goes On

Mr. Bono’s surviving spouse, Mary, did not immediately become the executor of his estate because there was no Will to probate. Had he signed a Will, the executor – Mary or someone else of his choosing – could have stepped in immediately to start settling his estate. Disputes among heirs, potential heirs, and his former wife complicated the matter.

Cher, his former wife, despite having a net worth far greater than Mr. Bono’s, filed suit against the estate for around $1.6 million. Allegedly, Bono had failed to pay Cher the money awarded in their 1975 divorce. Also, a man named Sean Machu sued the estate, claiming to be Sonny Bono’s “love child.” He later dropped the lawsuit when asked to undergo DNA tests.

Had Sonny Bono prepared a comprehensive estate plan, he likely would have signed a Will, a durable power of attorney, an advance directive, and possibly a trust. His Will would have helped his loved ones efficiently settle his estate. Trusts could have been set up to provide for his children, provide some privacy for his final affairs, and protect his assets from claims and judgments.

Estate Planning Truly Does Make A Difference No Matter Who You Are

People don’t like to think about death. It’s disturbing. Yet, it’s even more upsetting to think about your family having to struggle to settle your affairs after you’re gone.

Keystone Law Firm

2701 W. Queen Creek Rd. #3

Chandler, AZ 85248

(480) 418-8448


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