Lessons from Zsa Zsa

Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor passed away on December 18, 2016 at the age of, probably, 99, with nine marriages to millionaires under her belt, leaving behind a legendarily luxurious life of extravagance.

Gabor, who began her career by winning Miss Hungary in 1936 often played the role of the femme fatale in her TV and film career. Later in her life, as she became a legend and celebrity in her own right, she often played herself.

"When you think of Zsa Zsa Gabor, you think of the word 'extravagant,'" said Brandon Smith, a UBS Wealth Strategist of the Advanced Planning Group. "I thought to myself: 'when was the last time I looked up the definition of it?' So I did this morning. It's defined as 'lacking restraint in spending money, or using resources.'"

With that, this is certainly one of the best adjectives to describe her life. Gabor said herself: “I’m a compulsive buyer. Anything beautiful I see I want. That’s how we got the Waldorf Astoria. I told Conrad Hilton, ‘I want the Waldorf,’ and he bought it."

"We all know people like this," said Smith. "When we are dealing with Ultra High Net Worth clients, we see that every personality is idiosyncratic. We can't constrain clients from spending their money a certain way, but we can try to advise them, and help them deploy some intelligence in their financial decision-making."

Zsa Zsa, who was married nine times to a revolving door of very affluent men, including Hilton, an oil magnate, a Turkish diplomat, and ironically, a divorce lawyer.

One of Gabor’s most notorious quotes was: "I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back."

Key takeaways:

  • Remember that gifts are largely irrevocable. If you decide to gift, understand that the person receiving it is then the ultimate owner, free to do whatever they want with it.
  • Gifting to a trust may allow a bit more control over the use of the property, but the relationship to the original owner has changed. Always think through your gifting and accept the truth that you are relinquishing ownership.
  • If your life or circumstances change, your planning should evolve accordingly.
  • How can you make the best estate planning decisions aligned with your goals? Talk with your UBS Financial Advisor.

Smith remarked: "We always remind clients that gifts are largely irrevocable. When we encourage a client to gift, or a client decides to gift, he or she needs to understand that the person receiving the gift is then the ultimate owner who can do whatever they want with it as it's then theirs and theirs alone. Gifting to a trust may allow a bit more control over the use of the property, but the relationship to the original owner has changed. So a client should always think through gifting, and be able to accept that truth."

Moving to another classic quote from Gabor: “The minute I understand a man, he is no longer exciting and a challenge to me. And the last thing in the world I want is for a man to understand me and know what’s always going on inside my head. It takes away from all my mystery, which, as I’ve told you before, is the most important thing between a man and a woman.”

Smith said although we all like predictability as humans, there is a sense of mystery that should be treasured in life—though accommodated by an estate plan that evolves alongside the individual.

"The thing with estate planning is that each time there's a significant life event, an estate plan should be revisited," said Smith. "If it's mystery one is looking for, and that compels you to get married nine times over 99 years, then you should make sure your planning changes accordingly. Whether those life changes are minimal or extreme, there will inevitably be changes which can and should be accommodated. You have to make sure your goals are achieved and hopefully you're happy with the result."

How can your gifting make the most impact for your loved ones? Together we can find an answer. Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor or find one.