As celebrities go, his life seemed pretty simple. He lived in a fairly modest house in Stamford, Connecticut with his 4th wife Karen. (His first 2 marriages ended in divorce and third wife Gilda Radner died tragically of ovarian cancer).
After roles in landmark films like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, he walked away from his film career at age 58, and spent time far from Hollywood writing his memoirs in his house in the New England woods.
Unlike many of the rich and famous, his retirement was quiet, well-planned and far from ostentatious. That’s not surprising from the man who famously quipped that he “loved the show, he just didn’t like the business.”
“Unlike most stars we profile, Gene Wilder died somewhere between filthy rich and flat broke, spending down his cash while remaining comfortable to the end, which came last week from Alzheimer’s complications,” wrote Scott Martin, who often profiles the estate plans of the rich and famous.
He downsized to enjoy a peaceful and modest lifestyle on his own terms. Wilder once owned a Bel Air, California home that not long ago was bought by Elon Musk for almost $7 million, but he preferred to live far from Hollywood.
He kept his Alzheimer’s diagnosis from the public’s eye for over three years, but seemed to plan ahead for declining health. “Most Alzheimer’s sufferers hide symptoms for as long as possible,” said Carolyn Rosenblatt, a registered nurse and elder law attorney interviewed about the disease in Crain’s Wealth. But knowing he was in decline would have prompted him to work with family and trusted advisors to plan ahead and set up alternate ways to handle his affairs when he was no longer able to do so.
He left the drama at work. Unlike many celebrities, he seemed to enjoy a quiet life at home with family. He supported longtime charities and authored a series of books. His estate is estimated at $20 million, but having more money than most people didn’t change the way Gene Wilder lived and died. His priorities were always clear, and he used his funds to live the way he wanted. May we all be so lucky.