People who have completed an estate plan may assume that once it is in place, they do not need to think about it for at least a very long time. However, changes that happen in life can have a significant impact on an estate plan. Changes in relationships and wealth, having a child, or health problems can all be affected by an estate plan, which is why it can be very important to revisit your plan from time to time.
Take, for example, the estate plan of recently deceased actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. His death, while devastating, may not have been completely surprising to those closest to him, as he struggled for many years with drug and alcohol addiction and passed away after an apparent drug overdose. The details of his passing are tragic enough, but reports suggest that his family may be dealing with significant issues with Hoffman’s estate plan, which had not been updated in 10 years.
According to reports, Hoffman had a will in place and a trust established for his oldest child. However, in the 10 years since these were put into place, Hoffman had two more children. Moreover, Hoffman never married the mother of his three children, to whom he left his estate. Because of these factors and the way his will was drawn up, it is unclear what will be distributed to his other two children. And it is very likely that the mother of his children will have to pay enormous estate taxes because they were not married.
In order for people to avoid putting their loved ones in a similar situation, there are some ways that people can address their estate plan. Setting up trusts can be an effective way of minimizing the tax burden on others and prevent the details of the estate from being made public. It can also be important to update a will or trust when a child is born so that he or she is sure to receive the appropriate benefits. Speaking with an attorney to review or establish an estate plan can provide people with peace of mind in knowing that their assets and loved ones will be taken care of and protected after someone passes away.
Source: CNBC, “Here’s why Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will is ‘a mess’,” Kelley Holland, Feb. 21, 2014