Philip Seymour Hoffman is not the first star who has had poor estate planning. Unfortunately, Mr. Hoffman may not be the last. That noted, there is some wisdom we can glean from a sage in our past.
This subject was taken up in a recent article in The National Review titled "A Hollywood Lesson for Everyday People: Trusts." The article notes that everyone knows the "Hoffman story," to include his very personal business.
We all know what assets were left to whom, who was left out, and how much money he had. These are typically private concerns. However, because Hoffman only had a will, which is publicly probated in open court, everyone has access to these public records.
Fortunately, there is a simple way for people to keep their estate plans from becoming blog material (like this!): create a trust.
A revocable living trust is a common type of trust that can help secure your privacy. According to the original article, Hoffman said he did not want his kids to be "trust fund kids." This meant he did not want his kids to be spoiled by his acting fortune.
Ironically, Hoffman's children actually would have been better off with a trust that could have prevented them from every becoming "trust fund kids" in the first place.
The terms and conditions of a revocable trust can be changed, amended, or canceled whenever the individual who made the trust chooses. That person—like Hoffman—would still have control over the funds while he was alive and could direct how the trust would operate after his or her death.
Again, no one would know the details of Hoffman's estate—not even TMZ—if he had created a trust.
We should always endeavor to learn from the mistakes of others. In this context, we should learn from the Hoffman estate and heed the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust."
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: The National Review (August 8, 2014) "A Hollywood Lesson for Everyday People: Trusts"