Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Oscar winning actor died at only 46 from a drug overdose February of 2014. He had three young children and his fortune was estimated to be worth $35 million. After he died Mr. Hoffman’s Last Will and Testament were filed for probate. The Will was only fifteen pages long and was signed in October of 2004. That was a year and a half after his first child was born. In the Will, Hoffman’s entire estate was left to Marianne “Mimi” O’Donnell. She was a costume designer and the mother of all three of Hoffman’s children. They had never been married. In 2013, because of his recurring drug problem, they separated.
Some problems came about because Philip Hoffman did not update his Will to reflect his new situation or add his additional children.
Estate Planning Mistake #1 – Using a Will
Since Hoffman chose to use a will instead of a trust, it became public record once it was filed. The New York Post published the will online and instantly it was available to anyone. He had requested that his son be raised in Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco so that he could be exposed to the arts and culture of the large cities.
If he had chosen to use a trust of some kind instead of a will, his final wishes would have been kept private and not public record.
Estate Planning Mistake #2 – Failing to Update His Estate Plan
Hoffman signed his will in October of 2004 so it was not accurate with his current family situation. He had two daughters during the time between the signing and his death. Most of his fortune was accumulated during those nine years and he had won an Oscar. It is surprising that he did not update his estate plan with his daughters in mind or even his larger estate.
Estate plans should be reviewed every few years to be sure it still says what you want it to say. Law changes can also affect the effectiveness of an estate plan. Changes in finances, family and laws need to be updated in your estate plan regularly.
Estate Planning Mistake #3 – Ignoring a Trusted Advisor
Documents were filed while Hoffman’s estate was in probate that showed that his accountant had repeatedly advised Hoffman to use a trust fund to protect his children’s inheritance. The accountant’s advice was ignored by Hoffman and so the entire estate was left to his estranged girlfriend. No money was directly awarded to his children.
If he had listened to his accountant, he could have left a lasting legacy for children and left them with an inheritance that was protected.
By using an experienced estate planning attorney, you can avoid the same mistakes Philip Hoffman made. Call our office today, and let’s create your estate plan.