Sonny Bono, the singer, songwriter, restauranteur, former Mayor of Palm Springs, and former Congressman, died in a tragic ski accident in Nevada in 1998 at the age of 62. His net worth was just under $2 million at the time of his death, yet Bono did not have a will. Apparently, he meant to have one drawn up, but simply never got around to it. 

Sadly, his fourth wife and surviving spouse, former Representative Mary Bono, spent years battling to be the executor of his estate. She also faced lawsuits filed by anyone and everyone who wanted a piece of the pie – some of whom you wouldn’t believe…

Cher & Secret Love Child Want Piece of Sonny’s Estate

Having died intestate (without a will), Sonny Bono’s estate was seemingly up for grabs. Mary listed the value of the property of Bono to be about $1,700,000. His surviving spouse had to specifically fend off two people whose demands on the estate made headlines:

  • Cher. Yes, THAT Cher, Sonny’s second wife, sued for a share of his estate seeking $1.6 million in unpaid alimony. When the couple divorced in 1974, Sonny was allegedly ordered to pay Cher $25,000 per month for six months, $1,500 per month child support, and $41,000 in attorneys’ fees. 

Apparently, he never did. While it’s odd that someone with their own net worth of over $300 million would even bother taking the time, it’s nonetheless true. Whether she collected is anyone’s guess, but not likely.

  • Secret Love Child. As if Cher’s lawsuit wasn’t odd enough, a secret love child made his own claim on Sonny’s estate. Then 35-year-old Sean Machu came forward claiming to be Bono’s illegitimate son. 

Although Bono admitted to having an affair with Machu’s mother in his autobiography, The Beat Goes On, and Machu’s birth certificate lists Salvatore Bono (aka Sonny) as the father, Machu later withdrew the lawsuit when a DNA test was required. The results of the blood testing from Sonny Bono’s body were apparently not made public. As such, we don’t know whether Machu’s claim was settled or simply withdrawn.

Bono’s estate was eventually divided between his surviving spouse and his two children, Chastity (now Chaz) Bono and Christy Bono Fasce (a child from his first marriage).

Don’t Leave Your Wealth Up For Grabs – Take Action Now!

As Sonny Bono’s case shows, not having a will, trust, or other estate planning documents in place gives others the sense that your wealth is up for grabs. If Bono had simply had a Will that included, or excluded, Machu as a child, he would have saved his estate thousands of dollars. In addition, if Bono had done a little additional planning by having a revocable trust, all of this could have been private. Most of us don’t relish the idea of creating a plan for what will happen when we die.  However, it’s a necessity in order to avoid having your spouse and children go through court battles and heartache.

It’s imperative that you take action now. We have the tools you need to put your estate plan into place so that procrastination is not an issue.  Wouldn’t it feel good to know that you’ve done the right thing for your family?

Contact our office today at (952) 658-6503 to schedule an appointment to discuss your own estate planning.

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Zach Wiegand is a Minnesota estate planning attorney and the owner of Gold Leaf Estate Planning, LLC. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is an estate planning law firm that also handles probate and trust administration in Minnesota. We serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area with a focus on estate planning for clients in Burnsville, Eagan, Savage, Prior Lake, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Eden Prairie and the South Metro as well as clients in Woodbury, Lake Elmo, Maplewood, Oakdale, St. Paul and the East Metro. Our firm has offices in both Burnsville and Woodbury (Lake Elmo). The firm also handles probate in Dakota County, Washington County, Scott County, Hennepin County, and Ramsey County and most other counties in the Twin Cities Metro area. Zach has been named a Minnesota Super Lawyer – Rising Star for 2017, 2018, and 2019, and he is a member of WealthCounsel – a national organization of estate planning attorneys dedicated to practice excellence. You can contact Zach via e-mail at zach@goldleafestateplanning.com or by calling (952) 658-6503. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is located in Burnsville at 3000 County Road 42 W., Suite 310, Burnsville, MN 55337 and in Woodbury/Lake Elmo at 8653 Eagle Point Boulevard, Lake Elmo, MN 55042.

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