What Can We Learn From Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Trust?

philip seymour hoffman

A trust is an amazing tool that you can use to ensure that your assets and property are passed to your family and descendants while avoiding as many taxes as possible. Of course, trusts have been known to be used by the wealthy and famous, but that doesn’t mean you need to have significant assets to pass down to need a trust. A mistake many make is listening to stories about famous people and their trusts and then believing they shouldn’t have one themselves. In reality, there is a lesson to be learned from each famous trust you may have heard of.

Some famous trusts are well-known purely because they were made for or by famous people. Others are famous for how much wealth they have accumulated or how they’ve gone incredibly wrong. We can learn more about how to create a successful trust by looking at what they’ve done right and wrong.

One such trust that we want to look at is the trust of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. We believe there were common issues and mistakes in his trust that led to his trustees having to deal with several issues upon his death.

There are a few famous trusts out there, but this one perfectly illustrates a common issue we always try to avoid. If you’re in need of help making your own trust, the estate planning attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Trust

You may know Philip Seymour Hoffman from his many popular performances in films like the Hunger Games, Mission: Impossible, and The Master. When he passed away back in 2014, he left behind an estate of approximately $35 million.

In 2004, he had a trust established for his long-time partner, Marianne O’Donnell, with whom he had three children, Cooper, Tallulah, and Willa. Being that his two younger daughters were born after his trust was created, they were actually not in it. Hoffman had never updated his will or trust so they were originally left with nothing.

This proved to be a problem because Hoffman’s trust was made in New York, where parents are not required to leave any part of their estates to their children. Then, because he and his partner O’Donnell were never married, their mother could not inherit his properties and distribute Hoffman’s estate among their children equally.

This all led to Hoffman’s daughters needing to seek legal counsel for how to proceed. Their legal team had to establish that their father’s oversight of them in the trust was an error, not intentional. The trust may not have explicitly considered future children, but that didn’t mean that Hoffman would have wanted to leave nothing to them. After a legal battle to justify their belief that their exclusion was merely an oversight, they did receive a portion equal to their brother.

What We Can Learn From This Famous Trust

While this famous trust wasn’t created or utilized in Pennsylvania, there were several mistakes and issues that we can learn from. For one thing, one’s estate planning attorneys should encourage clients to update their trusts and wills to reflect any new children they have. If that is not feasible, the trust and/or will should be written in a way that takes future children into account. Hoffman’s clearly was not. The laws of New York nearly left Hoffman’s two daughters without any assets from their father.

Because of our experience, we know what to do and what not to forget for our clients. Even if you are sure you won’t have any more children, you should at least prepare for the possibility of a new child, or even grandchildren.

A child can be disinherited in Pennsylvania, but our state lacks laws that specifically state that a parent can leave their children with nothing. This means this issue with Hoffman’s trust could still happen to someone in our home state, but it would likely be less severe.

If such care was taken with Hoffman’s trust, his daughters may have been spared the reported heartache and struggle of having to fight for their piece of their father’s estate.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Who Has the Experience You Need

Our law firm has served Northern Pennsylvania and helped its residents with their estate planning issues since 1962. We have experience that is unmatched by most other law firms, which means you can trust us to take care of you, your assets, and your family.

When you trust us to help you with your will, trusts, long-term care planning, and more, you can trust that your loved ones won’t face issues like Philip Seymour Hoffman’s daughters did when you’re gone. Contact us today for a consultation.

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Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam

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