In all likelihood, [film director] Nichols had a "revocable living trust," that contained the dispositive provisions of his estate so that his wishes were shielded from the public.
Celebrities and high-profile estates tend to be a hot topic in the media, but sometimes the media doesn't get the full story.
An article from The National Review, titled "The Death of Mike Nichols and Estate Planning," sheds some light on why we know so little about the estate of award winning director Mike Nichols.
It seems the "[d]etails of the distribution ...are concealed in a private trust that has not been made public."
Experts say that, in all likelihood, Nichols had a "revocable living trust" containing the dispositive provisions of his estate. Consequently, with such a trust his wishes were shielded from the public and not part of a court record, which is public.
All we can do is speculate. We can’t tell, except for the tangible personal property, if the famous director split his assets between his wife and children—or left them all to his wife, or all to his children, or all to charity, and so on. Those details are in his revocable living trust. He may have also gifted his assets during his life—or he may have passed them by beneficiary designation or title.
So, don’t believe everything you read. Remember, just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s true, and things aren’t always as they seem. From an estate perspective, the moral of the story according to Forbes is to use a revocable living trust to avoid probate and to provide many advantages over just a will, not just the privacy advantage that Nichols achieved.
Reference: The National Review (December 9, 2014) "The Death of Mike Nichols and Estate Planning"