Here at Prestige Tax and Trust Services we’re always interested to hear how people choose to plan their estates. In this modern world of celebrities and the super-rich, it’s especially intriguing to see how these people decide to divide their estates when they die. We decided to take a quick look at the ways in which some notable celebrities chose to share their assets with their loved ones.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
The world was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman in February this year. An outstanding actor, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Capote in 2006. But while his acting was impressive, his estate planning was a little less impressive. For example, there was no estate tax planning undertaken and no revocable living trust, which would have made the division of his assets a little more complicated.
However, he did make an interesting request in his will, which highlights the fact that wills are not only there to discuss pecuniary transactions. He made clear his strong wish for his son to be raised in Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco, or, if not raised, that he visit these cities at least twice a year. He stated his wish too that his son be surrounded by the culture, art and architecture of those cities.
Known for a string of successful movies as well as a series of marriages, Elizabeth Taylor was also noted for her business savvy mind. Unlike many celebrities, she should be applauded for her proper approach to estate planning. There were suggestions following her death that her family might fight and argue over her expansive estate. Yet the reality was anything but turbulent.
The Elizabeth Taylor Trust is now funded by her assets, and he eight husband, Larry Fortensky, inherited around $800,000. While her will has never been made available publicly, it is believed she left most of her assets to her children, grandchildren and charitable foundations.
Following Heath Ledger’s sudden death in 2008, his will was read and it was revealed that he wanted to leave his entire estate to his parents and sisters. However, the document had not been updated for three years. In that time, Michelle Williams had given birth to Ledger’s daughter, Matilda Rose. After a brief debate and threatened court action, it was decided that everything should go to Matilda Rose.
There was also a $10 million life insurance policy in his daughter’s name, which could suggest he had intentionally not updated his will. No one can know at this point, but it does highlight the importance of maintaining an up to date will.
Another good example of forward planning came from Frank Sinatra. Unlike many people who marry multiple times and have children from different marriages, Sinatra drew up an extremely detailed will with clauses included that would deter any ferocious court battles amongst his adult children and his spouse at the time of his death. The document was 21 pages long and stated that anyone who tried to bring court action against anyone else would be entirely disinherited. Apparently it worked, though his children were reportedly unhappy with the amount left to his widow Barbara.
It’s never a great idea to assume that your children and spouse will get along following your passing, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. No one wants to fight when they’re grieving, and you can make things simple and clear in advance, to avoid putting your family through any pain.