In a previous blog, we stressed the importance of updating your estate planning documents as your life changes. Using actor Paul Walker as an example, we explained how he made many excellent estate planning decisions during his young life. Yet, his estate plan still had substantial shortcomings due to a failure to update. Likewise, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final will has recently been submitted into court with a similar, avoidable pitfall: his last will was signed in October 2004. Multiple significant life changes have occurred in the past 10 years that ought to have been, but were not, addressed in his will.
One particular final wish that stands out in Hoffman’s will is that the actor does not want his son, Cooper, to grow up in Hollywood. The late Oscar winner requested that Cooper – who was his only child at the time the document was written – to be “raised and reside in” Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco.
“If my guardian cannot reside in any of such cities, then it is my strong desire, and not direction, that my son, Cooper Hoffman, visit these cities at least twice per year throughout such guardianship,” Hoffman explained in the 13-page document. “The purpose of his request is so that my son will be exposed to the culture, arts and architecture that such cities offer.” This provision was the result of smart estate planning, because noticeably absent amongst those cities is Los Angeles, where Hoffman spent much of his working life. However, Hoffman leaves no question as to his intent for Cooper: he bolstered this provision in his will by explaining why those particular cities were chosen. A well-written will leaves no room to question the signor’s intent; no reason to think: “Maybe Mr. Hoffman simply forgot to include Los Angeles.”
Sadly, however, because Hoffman failed to update his will for so long, his intentions for his two daughters were not addressed. Hoffman went on to have two daughters after 2004, but no one will know what Hoffman wanted for his daughters Tallulah, 7, and Willa, 5. As we suggested in our previous blog, you should consider your estate plan to be a living and breathing document; as your life changes, your estate planning documents should accordingly change with it. The top three red flags that should signal you to update your will are:
- A change in your family,
- A change in your estate, and
- A change in the estate tax laws.
Since your estate plan should be constantly evolving along with your life and the law, having a good relationship with a reputable estate planning attorney is imperative. If you are interested in creating an estate plan or have any questions regarding your current estate plan, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri for further information. The attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including living wills and trusts, and we are happy to offer you a free consultation.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.