Paul Walker was not known for being one of the more prolific or intelligent actors of his era. Even so, the young actor made some sharp estate planning decisions during his short life, probably due to top-notch legal advice. Even so, his estate plan could have been better. Regardless of whether your estate is anything like Paul Walker’s $25 million estate, there are some great lessons* to be learned from Mr. Walker’s estate plan.
Paul Walker died at the much-too-young age of 40. However, he was smart and recognized that even young people need estate plans. Walker signed his will at 28 years old—an age when most young men still believe they are invincible. He should be commended for taking control of his future for the benefit of his loved ones. Walker realized that accidents happen, and he was prepared. You should do the same.
Walker was survived by his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow, and he privately provided for her future with a trust. Unlike a will that must be processed through the state court system, trusts are completely private and avoid the onerous probate process. Trusts are relatively easy to create, are protected from public scrutiny, and most importantly, can help your loved ones get the assets they need much faster than in the case of a will.
Although it is great that Walker named a guardian for his minor child (he named Meadow’s grandmother—his mother), he should have updated his choice with the passage of time. In 2001, his mother was 13 years younger and probably the most appropriate option. However, today, a younger family member could have been a better option in the event that his mother was not up to the task or physically incapable of being Meadow’s guardian.
Walker had both a will and a trust, which was smart at the time. Nevertheless, when he first created those documents, Fast and Furious had not become the monstrous success it is today. His financial picture has changed and his estate planning documents should have reflected those changes. Over a decade ago, he probably had no idea how much money he would be leaving his daughter; he couldn’t have. Furthermore, Walker’s estate will have to cover significant tax obligations before his beneficiaries receive their share; this obligation could have been avoided or reduced with some creative estate planning and trust creation.
Walker’s long-time girlfriend, the woman he reportedly wanted to marry, was apparently left with nothing. Boyfriends and girlfriends have no legal relief in this sad scenario, and it happens far too often. It goes without saying that Walker would have wanted to take care of his girlfriend for the rest of her life. However, since he failed to update his estate plan, she probably will not receive a penny.
You should consider your estate plan to be a living and breathing document; when your life changes, your estate planning documents should change along with it. This is why having a great relationship with a reputable estate planning attorney is so important. 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 Erlich Policastri for further information. The attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich 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.
*Post inspired by: Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, “Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate,” from Trial and Heirs: The Legacy Experts. Find the original article here: http://trialandheirs.com/blog/celebrities/paul-walker-estate-good-estate-planning-lessons