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Actor's estate planning outcome instructive on several fronts

Like any other person executing an estate plan, recently deceased actor Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly thought about what made most sense for his loved ones and sought to fashion a plan that best promoted their interests.

Were Hoffman still alive today and privy to advice from a proven estate planning attorney, he would likely want to revisit the plan he did execute, since its results could have been bettered with select modifications.

We mention Hoffman and his estate today not because he was a noted celebrity, but, rather, because media stories relating to widely known figures are often instructive for the general public.

As noted in one financial publication, for example, there are "important lessons to learn" from what Hoffman did -- and did not do -- when crafting his plan. We pass along here some relevant information for our readers in Texas and elsewhere.

Hoffman executed a trust to provide for his son, leaving the remainder of his estimated $35 million estate to his unmarried partner, with whom he fathered two daughters.

Hoffman and his girlfriend may have chosen not to marry for any number of reasons, of course. We merely point out here that their unmarried status had an outsized effect on the actor's estate outcome. Estate law flatly favors married couples, and many millions more would have gone to Hoffman's partner rather than to the IRS and the state of New York had the couple been married.

Additionally, it is uncertain what the couple's daughters will ultimately receive, given that Hoffman never mentioned them through an update to his will. His failure to do so serves as a strong reminder of the importance to periodically revisit and update information to account for new circumstances.

Last, it is worth noting that wills are generally susceptible of public scrutiny far more than are trusts, which can be structured in a very private way. Additionally, trusts are planning instruments that routinely offer high value for their flexibility and ability to transfer wealth with minimal tax consequences.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help a client implement an estate plan that is accurate, timely and soundly geared toward lawful tax avoidance.

Source: DailyFinance, "Philip Seymour Hoffman's 3 biggest estate planning mistakes," Dan Caplinger, Feb. 25, 2014

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