Sam Simon is a co-creator and executive producer of the longest running scripted primetime show ever: The Simpsons. Simon, however, clashed with the show's other creators and left the show in 1993, after only four seasons.
Co-creator Matt Groening called Simon “brilliantly funny” but “unpleasant and mentally unbalanced.” D’oh indeed!
In hindsight, Simon should also be described as a brilliant businessman. He negotiated to keep executive producer credits for the show and a share of The Simpsons' profits each year, including those from highly lucrative home media distribution. So despite having left the show 20 years ago, Simon is still listed as an executive producer on each episode. His profits keep rolling in, year after year.
And more recently, a diagnosis of terminal cancer stoked an estate planning effort that offers lessons for advisors and their clients.
Interestingly, Simon appears embarrassed by how much money he still receives — tens of millions of dollars each year, as he’s revealed in media interviews. He’s said it’s far more money than he could ever need. Because Simon is divorced and has no children (although he is engaged), Simon says his family members are already well taken care of and don’t need the show's lucrative royalties.
So what does Simon want to do with all of his millions? He is prepared to donate almost all of his royalties from the show to charity.
Yet Simon is very particular about the charities he helps. He founded the Sam Simon Foundation (reportedly worth nearly $23 million as of 2011) to rescue stray dogs and feed the homeless with vegan food. He has donated so much to PETA that the organization renamed its headquarters after him. Anti-whaling activists named their newest ship after him, for all of his help with their organization.
Simon was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in late 2012 and given a short amount of time to live. According to the Hollywood Reporter interview he recently gave, the cancer perforated his colon, almost killing him. He woke up in the hospital and realized that because he only had a will, it was time to do some serious estate planning.
Simon worked with consultants from the Rockefeller Foundation to set up a trust with some “fantastic trustees,” Simon says. He is excited that the charitable trust he created will continue living after he’s gone.
We can only hope that Simon continues to do well and overcomes his cancer. But in addition to his other good work, Simon can also teach about the importance of good estate planning.
Had he died with only a will in place, much of his fortune would have been lost to estate taxes, probate court costs, and legal fees — the same problems that are affecting the James Gandolfini estate. But by using more sophisticated estate planning, including a charitable trust, Simon can avoid all of that — making sure that more of his fortune can be used to achieve his goals and dreams, rather than being wasted.
You can share Simon's story with clients and prospects who need some help overcoming procrastination.
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Danielle and Andrew Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update. You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.