Estate Planning to Avoid Probate

In News by Michael Mangini

What’s the benefit of good estate planning? Consider the case of the Black Panther.

The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that the widow of Hollywood star Chadwick Boseman has started the public process of probating her late husband’s estate. As reported by the website:

Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman didn’t have a will when he died in August after a four-year battle with colon cancer, according to recently filed court records.

His wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, on Thursday filed a petition for letters of administration in L.A. County Superior Court.

Boseman had no children, but according to the petition both of his parents are alive. Under California law, when a person dies intestate under such circumstances the spouse would inherit all community property and split the individual’s separate property with the parents.

Letters of administration would give Ledward the authority to administer Boseman’s estate, which according to the filing includes personal property valued at about $939,000.

The tragic passing of the Hollywood actor, and subsequent media attention, highlight the value of estate planning.

Effective Estate Planning Can Make Matters Private and Quick

The Hollywood Reporter deems this newsworthy because it offers readers an unusual glimpse into the normally private lives of the well-heeled. Of course, the most gossip-worthy bit of information is the value of Mr. Boseman’s estate (which appears to exclude real estate).

Why don’t we see more stories like this when someone rich or famous dies? More often than not, the answer is effective estate planning.

Most celebrities and their advisors understand the public thirst for their private information. So, they create a testamentary plan that allows for private transfers upon death.

For example, you are probably aware that one way to transfer wealth is to create a trust. In New York, trust documents are generally not a matter of public record. Unlike a last will and testament, trust documents do not need to be recorded anywhere. Further, assets in certain trusts- like a revocable living trust- avoid probate altogether.

On the other hand, when a New Yorker dies with (testate) or without (intestate) a will, their next of kin cannot legally claim or distribute property without going through probate or administration. The filings include detailed accounts of assets and debts, and are generally public.

In addition to their public nature, probate and administration tend to take a long time. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, probate in New York City, for example, can take up to a few years.

In our experience, it’s fair to assume that Mr. Boseman did not consider these things because of his relatively young age and lack of children. No one likes to think about death, let alone a middle-aged person at the height of his career. But, we can see the consequences of failing to plan, as Ms. Ledward must now navigate her late husband’s affairs in a very public manner, over a period of years.

Of course, most of us will never approach the wealth or fame of Chadwick Boseman. But, you do not need a valuable estate to value your family’s privacy. It also goes without saying that the cost of setting up an efficient plan could pay for itself if it means relieving your loved ones of the time and expense of going through court.

We generally recommend to our clients that they should consider estate planning as early as possible. Our attorneys use cutting-edge strategies to ensure that your family’s affairs are handled with the utmost discretion and efficiency. Call or email Velella & Basso today to learn more.

The information on this website is not legal advice. It is for information purposes only. No user of this site should act or refrain on the basis of this information without seeking legal counsel. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Photo credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / stock photo ID 1354490372