Every year, most of us become a bit melancholy as we think back to the highlights and low points the year delivered. Many of us cherish those beautiful moments that life deals us, sometimes unexpectedly, and other moments leave us a bit exhausted or hurt or even embarrassed. As estate planning lawyers, it’s often the stories in the headlines that can help us explain to a client the importance of an estate planning tool or why one particular document serves their purposes better than another. This year, there were many beloved film stars and celebrities who passed away. Here are a few of those stories, each with its own estate planning lessons.
This beloved actor entertained audiences for decades. One of his final efforts, sadly, was to shine a light on elder abuse. While the world may never know the full story, the behaviors of some of those left behind reveal the importance of estate planning, regardless of your financial standing.
Rooney was 93 when he passed away and while he enjoyed success and wealth for a large part of his life, he died as he was born: penniless. With that thought in mind, it’s difficult to understand why his family felt like a court battle was necessary. There were no assets to dispute, instead, they took their disagreements to a judge in order to settle an argument on where the actor should be laid to rest. Solid estate planning would have prevented this in its entirety. It’s a lesson for those determined to live – and sometimes die – on their own terms.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Who could forget this Oscar winner’s declaration that a trust fund created trust fund kids? He completely dismissed the advice of his attorneys and financial advisers and opted to not create any kind of trust at all, instead, opting to leave everything to the mother of his children. He had great confidence, no doubt, but what he successfully managed was to create a massive tax bill that now rests on the shoulders of his former flame. On a $35 million estate? That’s going to be a massive bill she must now pay.
The benefits of a living trust would have reduced the tax bill tremendously – and in fact, it might could have avoided the tax man all together. By the way – Hoffman could have stipulated in any trust that his children meet certain requirements before receiving any financial windfalls from his estate. He could have required them to go to college, remain drug free or even have a job of their own.
In the case of the famous comedian, he did leave trusts. Because of that, his finances and the privacy of his family will most certainly be protected in the coming years. Not only that, but there’s been no probate filed, either, which will further protect his legacy and family. What we learned following his death was that he’d been diagnosed with both Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia. Clearly, had he waited to create his trusts after his diagnosis, it could have presented massive problems. He had the forethought to cover those bases years before he became ill.
These are just a few of the losses in Hollywood this year. The lessons they leave behind for those they never knew only add to the adoration they enjoyed in life. To learn more about trusts and proper estate planning, contact our offices today.