Although it seems that there are many lessons to be learned from the mistakes of others, celebrity mistakes can seem all the more colossal. Case in point: the reported problems with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s estate planning (a topic for another blog article). So it’s refreshing to see an example of a celebrity who actually did some things – even if not everything – right in his estate planning.
Forbes recently discussed some of the sound planning strategies Paul Walker put in place at an early age and before much of his stardom, in an article titled “Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate.”
First, Walker created a will when he was relatively young – 28 years old. Many young people figure that they’ll wait until they’re “older” to put plans in place, but then life gets busy and the planning keeps getting put off. I know of many people in their 40s and older who haven’t put their plans together yet, so Walker (who died in a car accident at age 40) provides a great example of how beginning to plan at a young age is a good thing.
Walker also left all of his assets to a trust that he had created. The trust was a revocable living trust, which can be a very effective estate planning tool. Although the terms of the trust aren't in the public record, if Walker went to the trouble of creating the trust, he most likely was concerned about the way that his young daughter would be handed his large estate. Under the terms of the trust, Walker very likely provided for his money (estimated at about $25 million at the time of his death) to be passed in stages as his daughter matures, rather than in a lump sum when she turns 18.
Finally, Walker named his mother as a back-up parent for his daughter. Although the guardianship designation will not necessarily trump the rights of the surviving parent (Walker’s long-time girlfriend) it offers important protection for the daughter in the event the surviving parent is unable to care for her.
Walker’s estate planning wasn’t perfect, of course. You can read about his the mistakes and the other lessons to be learned from those mistakes in the original article.
What is the main lesson you should take away from Paul Walker’s example? Many young people do live life "fast and furious" and don’t give too much thought to the future. If you’re over 18, you should take a break and sit down with an estate planning attorney sooner versus later. Don’t put it off until you’re “older,” because it’s impossible to know what the future holds.
For more information or for answers to your own estate planning questions, contact us at Peak Legal Group to schedule a complimentary Estate Planning Consultation.
Reference: Forbes, February 10, 2014: “Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate”