Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes, Part I

Posted on : January 12, 2018, By:  George Dillon

Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman died at age 46. He left behind his long-time girlfriend, three children, an estate worth about $35 million – and a tangled estate mess.

Didn’t Set Up Trust for Children

Some reports state Mr. Hoffman did not want his children to become “trust fund kids” so he just left everything to their mother, his long-time companion Mimi O’Donnell. Other reports state his Will mentions a trust that only applies to his son, Cooper. Hoffman’s two daughters were born after the Will was signed.

Either way, failing to set up a trust fund for the benefit of his children was a big mistake. Among other things, by using a Will to pass his assets, his estate became public. Wills are recorded in probate court, trusts are not.

Even worse, though, his children miss out on the benefits of a well-crafted trust. Their mother is under no obligation to use the money wisely for her children.

Didn’t Use Tax Reduction Strategies

A person’s marital status at death doesn’t seem like it should make that much of a difference in their estate tax – but it does. The marital deduction offers great tax breaks for married couples.

Since Mr. Hoffman and the mother of his children never married – and he didn’t use any tax reduction strategies – she lost those important tax benefits. Her heirs may also face estate tax woes at her passing.

Didn’t Update Estate Plans

Your Will usually states the names of your children and addresses their needs. Often a Will contains language that applies to children not yet born. So, if you have one child when you sign the Will and have more afterwards, they are covered. (Although, really, you should update your estate planning documents when you have more children.)

Mr. Hoffman’s Will only mentions his oldest son, Cooper. Unfortunately, his Will did not contain reference to future children.

Contact a Qualified Attorney

Mr. Hoffman reportedly had his CPA draw up his Will. Estate planning documents are too important to be prepared by anyone other than a qualified attorney.

At Dillon Law Group, PLC, the attorneys work with you to evaluate your needs and develop a comprehensive estate plan. Please contact us at 757-962-4796 to set up an appointment or use the Contact Form on our website, https://www.dillonlawgrp.com/. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach and Newport News.

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