Celebrity news can often seem like a lot of false and meaningless gossip, but every once in the while we can find something valuable hidden within it. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an actor who tragically died of a drug overdose earlier this year, has been making headlines again but this time for his estate planning. In his estate, Hoffman made certain plans for his daughter, naming guardians, requesting that she live in certain cities, or if not possible that she visits these cultural cities multiple times a year with her guardian. He used his estate planning, not only to deal with financial aspects, but also to guide his daughter’s future. Although he did this in a somewhat non-conventional manner, he still achieved some personal goals relating to how his daughter would be raised that he could not have accomplished had he failed to complete his estate plan. This is a good reminder that the most important parts of estate planning often have nothing to do with passing on money or assets, but rather passing on desires and wishes for your children and loved ones.
Even if you have an estate plan, if your documents are out of date you can still run into trouble down the road. Actor Heath Ledger, almost disinherited his daughter, Matilda Rose, by failing to update his estate plan prior to his unexpected and tragic death. As a result, his assets went to his father, which led to family disharmony, until Heath’s father finally promised to take care of Matilda Rose. Headlines, like these, remind us of how important is it is update your estate plan as big life events occur, such as the birth of a baby, marriage or divorce. Remember, life is a fluid experience. We change from day-to-day and through the years. It is important that our estate planning documents change with us and continue to focus on what we want to accomplish at the time.
Although these celebrities may make headlines because they have more notoriety than every day people, these situations are unfortunately very common among clients who come into my office everyday. Make sure to find an estate planner you feel comfortable building a relationship with so that you never end up with an outdated estate, and can build into it all your wishes for your family members.