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  • Writer's pictureJenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea

Celebrity Estate Planning - Bob Barker - Episode 129


Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners! This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. We’re back to the “celebrity estate planning” topic and for today’s episode, we’re going to dive into what happened following the death of our Price is Right friend, Bob Barker. The most popular, most iconic host of the from the 1970s until 2007 when he retired from hosting (and that’s when Drew Carey took over hosting the show). As we always do, let’s talk a little about Bob first, before we dive into what happened following his death estate-wise.

Hailing from the state of Washington, Bob was born in December of 1923, according to his Wikipedia page. Interestingly, Bob’s father was one-quarter Sioux Native American – since his mother was a non-Native, Bob was technically one-eighth Sioux … and even spent some of his childhood residing at Rosebud Indian Reservation, which is located in Mission, South Dakota. Unfortunately, Bob’s father died when he was young – so his mother remarried and ended up moving the family to Missouri – according to Biography.com. Oh kind of a cute thing – he met his eventual wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert in Missouri and they started dating when he was 15 years old.

Fast forward time … he started attending Drury College, got sidetracked temporarily due to joining the Navy for World War II (he never saw combat), and while on military leave, he and Dorothy married in 1945 – when he was 21 years old. World War II ended, so he headed back to Drury College to finish his degree. Soon after, his broadcasting career began – with some time at a station in Missouri, then in Florida, then in California – and ultimately, he was offered the hosting gig for the popular show, Truth or Consequences, by Producer Ralph Edward.

According to Biography.com. Bob hosted that popular show from 1956 to 1975. In a 2007 interview later in life, Bob said the following about Ralph’s offer to have him host the show: “That was, that is, and that will always be the most important call of my professional life. All the wonderful things that have happened to me since started with that phone call from Ralph.” After Truth or Consequences, Bob, of course, started hosting Price is Right in 1972 – so there was a bit of an overlap between his hosting gigs. Though, his reign of hosting the Price is Right went for about 35 years – until he retired in 2007. What a ride!

So, remember his wife, Dorothy? They were married from 1945 to 1981, when she sadly passed away from lung cancer at the age of 57, according to Wikipedia. Of note, Bob and Dorothy never had children. After Dorothy’s passing, really beginning in 1983, Bob started dating Nancy Burnet, according to People Magazine. They dated, but never married, until Bob’s death – so for about 40 years. They were both die-hard animal rights’ activists. (Don’t you remember how Bob ended every show? “Help control the pet population – have your pets spayed or neutered!”) For example, according to People, Bob donated nearly 500 acres in California to DonkeyLand, which is a nonprofit that works with injured and sick wild donkeys. I mean, if we had a lot more time, I’d go through ALL the many, many organizations and animals he supported, advocated for, etc. He truly was an animal lover and supporter.

Well, as many of you know, Bob died JUST SHY of turning 100 – he died in August 2023 at the age of 99. He was born, remember, in December, so he was just a few months short. According to Biography.com, Bob died from Alzheimer’s Disease – something he and his team kept quite private. So, after he passed away, it’s been confirmed that Bob had some type of estate plan – very likely a plan consisting of trust planning. I looked and looked and looked for copies of a Will of his, or even some articles or blogs that really got into a lot of detail about his estate plan. Honestly, guys – there’s not a lot out there. Which totally reminds me of our last “celebrity estate planning” episode on Jimmy Buffett and a former episode I did way-back-when on Betty White. The thing that Jimmy Buffett, Betty White, and Bob Barker all have in common: There is NOT a lot “out there” on the ol’ world wide web of their estate plan, which usually means: 1) they had an estate plan and 2) it was a good one.

Now, according to a MSN article, the word on the street is that Nancy, his long-time girlfriend, is in charge of his Estate. Additionally, Bob’s publicist, a gentleman by the name of Roger Neal, shared that Bob’s Estate left a large part of the Estate to a variety of different charitable organizations – which mostly were animal rights’ organizations or military organizations. It’s said he distributed things amongst approximately 40 different organizations. Spreadin’ the love – I love it!

To name drop a few of the organizations – one is DonkeyLand, which isn’t surprising that he was passionate about their mission given he donated 400+ acres to them! Another was the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the State of Washington. A third one (of the approximately 40 that he supported in his estate plan) that the MSN article references is United Activists for Animal Rights based out of California. An interesting connection to this organization is that his long-time girlfriend, Nancy, was and continues to be the current President of the United Activists for Animal Rights organization.

Now, since such little is known about Bob’s estate and estate plan (except that he was extremely generous about supporting many charitable organizations) – I thought it may be a good time to discuss options that exist in my estate world on supporting charitable organizations. There are a few, so let’s talk about it!

Now, if this is something you’d like to do, I really, really encourage you to speak to someone like me, an estate attorney; a financial advisor; and a tax professional. There are often great tax benefits associated with incorporating giving to a charitable organization. So, to get you goin’ on some ideas, generally-speaking

1.     Gifting while you’re living – Some elect to do “give while they’re” alive AND give after they pass; or just one (or neither, I suppose!). With the rise of “Do you want to round up here-and-there-an-everywhere?”

2.     Giving to charitable organizations in an estate plan – Different strategies here with Wills, Trusts, and beneficiary designations.

3.     Other options – i.e. Donor Advised Funds, that an advisor can help walk you through, explain, etc. Those are WONDERFUL options that are growing in popularity.

Alrighty, I think we’re ready to wrap this episode up. Next week we’re back to a “cautionary tale” episode where we talk about real-life clients, real-life cases that I, or my office, have worked on. Always good stuff on those episodes! Until then, take care and be well!

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