Monday, May 3, 2010

Designer Donna Karan's lessons for estate planning, leaving a legacy

Television's Sunday Morning on CBS profiled American clothes designer and independent business woman, Donna Karan, who at 61 remains at the top of her game in the fashion industry. The Karan story was more than a feel-good piece about her remarkable career and successful mega businesses, Donna Karan New York and DKNY. Karan's partnership with husband, Stephen Weiss, merged the personal and the professional. Weiss, a sculptor and artist who married Karan in 1983, became co-CEO of Donna Karan companies. The couple built an empire that when sold in 2001 netted a combined $640 million. This is worth mentioning because Weiss died of lung cancer in 2001 and engineered the sale of the companies before his death as a loving gesture to his wife who got all the money and continues to do what she loves...design clothes and support charitable enterprises. Karan has used her wealth to launch several charitable projects of note including an integrative therapy research program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and something she calls Urban Zen. At Urban Zen, money is funneled into arts programs, childrens projects and cultural preservation. It's no surprise that a woman such as Donna Karan would have some creative and original ideas for how to benefit her fellow humans. Karan is among the 60 & Single. She had the good fortune to have a great husband and business partner who apparently saw his death coming and planned for it financially to his wife's benefit. To be so lucky!

How many of us have had the conversation with our spouses about how things will be when they're gone? How many of us wish we'd had that conversation?
A multitude of resources on estate planning are available on the Web. Here are a few suggestions:

- AARP offers advice and books, click here.
- 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, click here.
- CNN Money offers a primer on estate planning, click here.
- Donna Karan's basic bio, click here.
- Donna's charity Urban Zen, click here.

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