Antonio Villaraigosa with Kirk Douglas and Anne Douglas
at the Los Angeles Mission’s Thanksgiving Meal. Skid Row, Los Angeles, CA. 11-23-05

In addition to protecting your life’s work and providing for your loved ones, an estate plan gives you the opportunity to support the organizations and causes close to your heart. It’s a chance to create a legacy and teach future generations about the importance of charitable giving. Many high-profile entertainers also incorporate philanthropy in their estate plans. Here’s a look at some of the projects that Hollywood celebrities have started or supported. Who knows… their work may inspire your next charitable endeavor!

Bea Arthur

Actress, comedian, and activist Bea Arthur appeared on stage and screen for seven decades. The Tony and Emmy Award winner is probably best known for her television roles, including Maude Findlay in All in the Family and Dorothy Zbornak in The Golden Girls. One of Arthur’s final performances took place in 2005, when she recreated her one-woman show “Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends” to benefit the Ali Forney Center. The Ali Forney Center is a New York-based organization that supports homeless, LGBT youth. Many of the youths have been abused or kicked out of their homes after coming out to their families.

Bea Arthur continued to support the Ali Forney Center even after her death in 2009. Arthur left the organization $300,000 in her will; the money was specifically allocated for the construction of a shelter. Thanks to her support, the Ali Forney Center was able to open the Bea Arthur Residence for Homeless LGBT Youth. The facility can accommodate as many as 18 homeless youths.

Johnny Carson

As the long-reigning host of The Tonight Show, comedian and media personality Johnny Carson appeared in people’s homes for more than 30 years. During his career, Carson earned six Emmy Awards, a Peabody, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was a beloved pioneer of television and one of the most philanthropic celebrities in Hollywood.

When Johnny Carson passed away from emphysema in 2005, he left behind one of the world’s largest entertainment celebrity foundations. The Johnny Carson Foundation, as of 2013, was worth more than $200 million in funds, securities, and royalty rights. While The Johnny Carson Foundation has donated millions of dollars to various charities, one of its primary focuses has been Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. As per his final wishes, the Carson Foundation continues to support the town that gave Carson his start. The Foundation has contributed to Norfolk library, high school, community college, hospital, and museum. After receiving a large donation, the University of Nebraska (Carson’s alma mater) renamed their performing arts department the Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film.

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas was an American actor, director, and writer whose career spanned eight decades. He appeared in more than 90 films, including such classics as Spartacus, Ace in the Hole, Lust for Life, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He passed away in February 2020, at the age of 103.

Prior to his death, Kirk Douglas and his wife created the Douglas Foundation, whose focus is “improving the education and health, fostering the well-being, and most importantly developing new opportunities for the children who hold our future in their hands.” Douglas left the majority of his $61 million estate to charities, including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, St. Lawrence University, and the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (which houses the Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Centre). He also left money to the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California.

George Michael

English singer/songwriter George Michael rose to fame in the 1980s as part of the musical group Wham!. He also found success as a solo artist, with songs such as “Careless Whisper,” “Faith,” and “Freedom ’90.” At the time of his death in December 2016, Michael had sold more than 115 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He died at age 53, due to heart and liver problems.

During his lifetime, George Michael supported a number of charitable organizations, held benefit concerts, volunteered his time, and anonymously helped local causes and individuals. He also arranged for the continued support of NSPCC Childline, a British organization through which trained counselors speak with young people over the phone. Following his death, Childline received a large donation from the Georgia Michael estate; this money allows the organization to continue operating and helping England’s most vulnerable youth.

Alex Trebek

Canadian-American television personality Alex Trebek hosted the game show Jeopardy! for 37 seasons, from the show’s revival in 1984 to 2020. He passed away in November 2020, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

During Trebek’s lifetime, he invested his time and money in a number of charitable causes. His family continued this legacy by donating a large portion of his on-air wardrobe to The Doe Fund after his death. The Doe Fund provides jobs, vocational training, and social services to Americans coping with homelessness or who have a history of incarceration. The Trebek family donated hundreds of clothing items, including suits, sport coats, dress shirts, neckties, sweaters, dress shoes, and other accessories.

Flip Wilson

Comedian and actor Flip Wilson made history for being the first African American person to host a successful television variety show. The Flip Wilson Show aired from 1970 to 1974, earning both a Golden Globe Award and two Emmy Awards. In 1972, Time Magazine named Wilson “TV’s first black superstar.” Wilson also released award-winning comedy albums, including 1970’s The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress.

Prior to his death in 1998, Flip Wilson made plans for and funded an academic scholarship. The Flip Wilson Memorial Scholarship is offered each year to full-time communication or journalism majors at California State University (Northridge), Howard University, Rutgers University, the University of Washington, and Wayne State University. Preference is given to students of African American descent. The scholarship covers one year’s worth of tuition and living expenses.

If you or a loved need help with an issue related to estate planning, probate, or real estate law, please reach out to Brian M. Douglas & Associates at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact form. One of our experienced attorneys would be happy to help.