Wills, Trusts And Estate Planning Lessons From Phillip Seymour Hoffman

As estate planning attorneys, we encourage people to take steps to prepare for the inevitable.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the acclaimed actor who died unexpectedly Feb. 2 at age 46, did take some steps to secure his future. Unfortunately, he also made a few mistakes.

Our hope with this post is that we can illustrate for Texas residents why thorough and complete estate planning is necessary.
Hoffman, who was in a long-term partnership and had three children, had an estate worth about $35 million when he died.
The first mistake he made stemmed from the best of intentions. Hoffman had a will created in 2004, when he and his girlfriend had only one child, but he never updated it, even after welcoming two daughters into the world. So, when his will is administered, it will take extra work to make sure they’re taken care of. That can certainly be done, of course, but it’s effort and money that could have been avoided had Hoffman updated his will in the first place.
Second, Hoffman could arguably have made better use of trusts. Unlike wills, trusts do not go through probate — the public, court-supervised administration of a will. Since Hoffman didn’t incorporate trusts extensively into his estate planning, his final arrangements will be on full view for the tabloids to pick over.
Lastly, Hoffman and his girlfriend probably had their reasons for not marrying. We are not saying those reasons are not valid. However, since she was not his legal spouse, she’s at risk to lose 40 percent of what he left to hear to federal and state taxes. It’s entirely possible that if Hoffman and his girlfriend had managed their personal situation differently (and again, that’s a choice they’re free to make or not make), they would have lost less to taxes.
If you think it would be good for you to speak with an estate planning attorney, please know that you can contact Ford+Bergner LLP. We’d be honored to be among the law firms you consider for this important task.