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February 2014
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March 2014

Oscar Winners Teach Five Lessons On Estate Planning

The 2014 Oscars are complete.  Trial & Heirs looks back at past Oscar winners like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Taylor, Heath Ledger, Frank Sinatra, and Marlon Brando.  Their estates illustrate important estate planning lessons that everyone can benefit from — even those who aren’t walking the red carpet at the Oscars.  

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman Estate Planning Lesson:  You Can Be Creative With Your Will or Trust

There were many mistakes and pitfalls with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s estate (including no estate tax planning and his failure to use a revocable living trust, as we discuss in our article).  But, Hoffman — whose portrayal of Capote earned him the Best Actor Oscar in 2006 — didn’t do everything wrong. Oscars_hoffman-237x300

He gets credit for a key component of estate planning that many people overlook: creativity.  Estate planning is not meant to be “fill in the blank” or “one-size fits all.”  You can use your will or trust to pass along your goals, values and moral beliefs.  Most people think wills and trusts only pass along assets to the next generation, but they can do so much more.

Hoffman’s will highlights this.  He included language in his will to express his strong desire that his son be raised in Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco, or at least visit one of those cities twice each year, to be exposed to the culture, arts and architecture that those cities offer.   Hoffman could have taken it a step further, especially through a well-drafted trust, but we applaud the late actor for thinking outside the box.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman's Will Highlights Four Planning Pitfalls

Oscar-winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, died on February 2nd from a drug overdose.  Recently, his long-time girlfriend and mother of his three children, Marianne O’Donnell, filed to open Philip Seymour Hoffman’s estate and to probate his will.  While there are many lessons that can be drawn from his will, there are four main estate planning pitfalls that serve as important lessons:   Philip_seymour_hoffman

1.  Philip Seymour Hoffman Should Have Created A Revocable Living Trust.

The reason that Hoffman’s will is public and available for anyone to read (you can click here to read it for yourself), is because he relied on a will — and only a will — for his estate plan.  For most people with even a modest estate, revocable living trusts are critical.

Why?  When properly used, they help families avoid the costs, aggravation, and delays caused by the probate process.  Probate court proceedings are public record (meaning anyone can read the will — even your nosy neighbor!), and are expensive, difficult to maneuver without an attorney, and often are breeding grounds for family fights.

It's much better to work with an attorney to prepare a revocable living trust now, than for your loved ones to have to hire a probate lawyer later.

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