Farrah Fawcett was best known for her role as Jill Munroe in the ABC television series Charlie’s Angels. She died on June 25, 2009, at the age of 62 after battling anal cancer for three years.
The contents of Ms. Fawcett’s revocable living trust, the governing document of her estate plan, should have remained private. That’s one of the benefits of living trusts — they’re not a matter of public record the way wills are. The trust’s terms were nonetheless revealed to the public in November 2009 when the website RadarOnline.com somehow obtained a copy of the trust agreement.
The 54-page document entitled “The Third Amendment to and Complete Restatement of the Fawcett Living Trust dated December 5, 1991” was signed by Farrah Fawcett on August 9, 2007.
Farrah Fawcett’s Artwork
All of Fawcett’s artwork was left to the University of Texas at Austin, a bequest that turned out to be the subject of a good deal of controversy.
The university sued actor Ryan O’Neal in July 2011, claiming that he stole a portrait of the actress made by Andy Warhol. The portrait was worth an estimated $12 million and went missing from the actress’s Los Angels condo after her death. A jury ruled in favor of Mr. O’Neal in late December 2013, allowing him to keep the Warhol portrait.
Mr. O’Neal was Ms. Fawcett’s longtime on-again-off-again boyfriend and the father of her only child, Redmond O’Neal.
Fawcett’s Gift to Her Son
The sum of $4.5 million was left in a lifetime trust for the benefit of Ms. Fawcett’s son, Redmond. Producer Richard Francis is named as the trustee of this trust. When Redmond dies, anything remaining in that trust will be distributed to the Farrah Fawcett Foundation.
As the trustee, Francis is authorized to make distributions of trust interest to Redmond at least four times a year and up to once a month — but only from interest earned by the trust, not the $4.5 million principal balance.
Redmond is only entitled to a portion of the principal if it’s necessary for health care purposes. Even then, these distributions are left to the discretion of Richard Francis. It was reported at the time that Redmond had a problem with drug dependency and this has since been substantiated.
Redmond has since had numerous legal issues, including robbing a store at knifepoint in 2018, so it would seem that Ms. Fawcett’s precautions were wise indeed. Although convictions will not reportedly affect the terms of his inheritance, the interest is the only money available to Redmond when and if he needs to post bail and mount legal defenses.
Fawcett’s Gift to Her Father
The sum of $500,000 was left in a lifetime trust for the benefit of Ms. Fawcett’s father, James Fawcett, who was still living at the time of his daughter’s death. Her only sibling, a sister, died in 2001, and her mother died in 2005.
Mr. Fawcett died in August 2010 at the age of 92. Producer Richard Francis was named as the trustee of this trust as well. Ms. Fawcett’s trust agreement provided that anything remaining in his trust was to be added to Redmond’s trust when Mr. Fawcett passed away.
All of Farrah Fawcett’s personal items, including jewelry, clothing, furniture, and collectibles — other than artwork — were left to her nephew, Greg Walls. He also received the sum of $500,000 outright.
The sum of $100,000 was left outright to an ex-boyfriend, Gregory Lawrence Lott. Rumors circulated after Ms. Fawcett’s death that she was still involved with Mr. Lott immediately before her passing.
The Farrah Fawcett Foundation
The balance of Fawcett’s estate was left to the Farrah Fawcett Foundation. The exact amount is undisclosed.
This private foundation was founded by Ms. Fawcett in 2007 and its mission is to provide funding for cutting-edge cancer research and prevention. It aims to help those struggling with cancer with an emphasis on anal and pediatric cancers.
What Did Farrah Fawcett Do Right or Wrong?
It seems pretty obvious that Fawcett took a good bit of care in drafting her estate plan. Could she have done anything differently? What if she really had wanted Ryan O’Neal to have that portrait? Clearly, she should have mentioned this somewhere in her trust documents, and the fact that she didn’t seems like a glaring omission.
The moral of the story: Make your wishes known. Too much explanation is better than too little. Be explicit and memorialize your intentions and reasoning in writing whether you draft a will or a trust. A trust often provides a greater opportunity to legally set conditions and rules for your bequests. At least, they’re less likely to be overturned by a disgruntled beneficiary as sometimes happens with wills.
If you’re concerned about a particular beneficiary for any reason — someone might simply be a spendthrift or involved in a bad marriage — living trusts can be set up in any number of ways to structure the distribution of bequests. Consult with a lawyer to make sure the trust documents get the language right. You don’t want to leave such issues to chance or have your wishes invalidated because of a minor error — and yes, trusts can be challenged just like wills can.
Ms. Fawcett also took pains to keep her estate private by forming a trust rather than leaving everything to beneficiaries under the terms of a last will and testament. There’s no way she could have foreseen that anyone involved would spill the beans after her death.