Elizabeth Taylor's Estate—Actress Left Bequest to Ex-Husband

Some Details About Elizabeth Taylor's Estate Plan

Elizabeth Taylor
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It was apparent that Elizabeth Taylor wanted to keep the details of her final wishes private when she died on March 23, 2011. She used a revocable living trust as the governing document of her estate plan—a move that prevented the details of her estate from becoming available to the public. A last will and testament would have been open to public consumption when it was filed for probate, but trusts do not require probate.

Larry Fortensky's Inheritance 

This didn't keep one of Taylor's beneficiaries from spilling the beans, however. Taylor's seventh and final husband, Larry Fortensky—she was actually married eight times but twice to Richard Burton—was more than glad to talk about what he would be receiving from the late actress's estate. He revealed in an interview with London's The Daily Mail that he received a letter from the late actress's attorneys informing him that she had bequeathed him $825,000. 

Ironically, Fortensky spoke very little about his marriage to Taylor during the actress's lifetime. He never mentioned any other details regarding his relationship with her. He was also awarded $1.5 million in their divorce. 

Fortensky—59 years old at the time and 20 years Taylor's junior—was living a reclusive life in a small California town at the time he received news of the windfall 15 years after their divorce.

The Marriage and Its Aftermath 

Taylor and Fortensky, a construction worker, were married in 1991 at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch after meeting while were both in rehab at the Betty Ford Center, Taylor for pills and Fortensky for booze. The couple divorced in 1996, but, according to Fortensky, his ex-wife was paying him $1,000 a month at the time of her death because she thought he "could use a little help."

Fortensky admitted that he accepted the money, but he said he never asked for it. Fortensky's sister, Donna, had told Ms. Taylor several years before that her ex-husband was suffering from severe financial woes. That's when the checks started to arrive.

Fortensky also stated that he had been in "regular contact" with Ms. Taylor and had spoken to her right before she entered the hospital for the final time.

The Trust and Its Other Beneficiaries 

It wouldn't have been a surprise if Mr. Fortensky's interview with The Daily Mail had prompted Elizabeth Taylor's other beneficiaries to loosen their lips, too. But, in fact, the estate settled peacefully. All other terms of her revocable living trust have remained private, just as they were intended to. It's rumored that the trust passed the majority of her assets to her children, grandchildren, and to various charities. 

The moral of this story is that if you want to keep the extent of your estate private, consider forming a revocable living trust as Elizabeth Taylor did—and caution your beneficiaries to keep their lips sealed after your death. When an estate doesn't pass through the court-supervised probate process, the outside world is never the wiser.