Unless you don’t own a TV or use the internet, you’ve no doubt heard about “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” movie or read the book. If not, you’re missing some thrilling stuff.
The author, Stieg Larsson, was a Swedish journalist who died in 2004 of a heart attack. He was not famous or rich at the time. But of course, you needn’t be a wealthy author to justify putting solid estate planning in place.
Posthumous Publishing Sensation
Larsson reported on far-right extremists, edited a magazine, and penned science fiction short stories. When he died, he left behind three finished crime novels that were published posthumously as the “Millennium” series. These books made the late Larsson an international writing sensation — though he was not around to enjoy it.
In 2008, it was announced that Larsson had written a Will in 1977, leaving his assets, including future publishing royalties, to Sweden’s socialist party. His personal belongings and writings were to go to his longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson. But the Will was never witnessed and was invalid under Swedish law.
Never Married Companion of 32 Years
As such, Larsson’s entire estate passed to his brother and father instead of Gabrielsson — his companion of 32 years.
The couple never married because in Sweden, couples must register a public document with their home address. Because of Larsson’s work as an investigative journalist, he received frequent death threats, and so they decided against marriage out of concern for safety.
He loved Gabrielsson a great deal according to a letter she shared earlier this year in a Vanity Fair article (http://tinyurl.com/6wjz8rq). The letter was found with his Will in an envelope labeled, “To Be Opened Only After My Death.” It’s a powerfully written declaration of loyalty and a testament to the enduring love between them.
Other news articles have detailed the legal battle between Gabrielsson and Larsson’s father and brother over what has grown to a $30 million estate. The family reportedly offered her $3.3 million, but she declined, saying she only wants the right to publish his works as he wanted.
Wealth Happens, Plan Accordingly
Larsson failed to protect Gabrielsson’s interests in his estate. I doubt that he wanted to leave her with nothing. He is not the first author whose works created a sensation after death. And while he couldn’t have anticipated his eventual fame and fortune, a valid Will would have made disbursing his considerable assets much simpler.
Lesson for Clients
Sometimes an estate can unexpectedly grow after death. Unpublished manuscripts, artwork and even certain businesses can exponentially increase in value. Solid estate planning documents — including a valid Will — can prevent most legal fights between heirs and make the final wishes of the originator crystal clear to a court of law.
As always, I hope this provides insight and motivation for my readers. If you have questions or concerns, please call our office.