Celebrity Estate Planning Blunders: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will

Celebrity Estate Planning: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman who starred in such movies as Patch Adams, The Big Lebowski, and Along Came Polly, died from a drug overdose in February 2014. Unfortunately, he left behind three young children - and a fortune estimated to be worth $35 million. 

He was only 46. 

After his death, Mr. Hoffman’s Will was filed for probate.

·  The Will is 15 pages – and, it was signed on October 7, 2004, about a year and a half after the actor’s first child was born. 

·  The Will leaves his entire estate to Marianne “Mimi” O’Donnell, the mother of all three of Mr. Hoffman’s children. Mimi was a costume designer. 

·  The couple never married and separated in 2013, due allegedly to Mr. Hoffman’s drug problems. 

Estate Planning Mistake No. 1 – Using a Will

Shortly after Mr. Hoffman’s Will was filed, The New York Post published it online and his final wishes instantly became public information.

·  Interestingly, and despite having lived in Los Angeles, he requested to have his son (the only child living when the Will was signed) raised in Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco so that he "will be exposed to the culture, arts and architecture that such cities offer."  

·  There is another way – a private way – that Mr. Hoffman could have planned his estate.  A Revocable Living Trust would have kept Mr. Hoffman’s final wishes a private matter. As CNN reported however, Hoffman repeatedly rejected his attorney’s recommendation that trusts be created for his kids.

Estate Planning Mistake No. 2 – Failing to Update the Estate Plan

Mr. Hoffman signed his Will in October 2004.

·  Over the next decade, he had two daughters, won an Oscar for best actor for his performance in Capote, and amassed a great majority of his fortune. 

· Considering Hoffman's well-documented, long-term struggle with drug addiction as well as the significant changes in his life and net worth during those nine years, it is both surprising, and not surprising, that he failed to update his estate plan. 

·  At the very least, your estate plan should be reviewed every two or three years to insure that it still accomplishes your goals and takes into consideration changes in your assets, your family, and the law.  

Estate Planning Mistake No. 3 – Ignoring a Trusted Advisor

In probate court documents, it was revealed that Mr. Hoffman’s accountant repeatedly advised him to protect his children with a trust.  But Hoffman ignored this advice. 

·  With the terms of the 2004 Will left unchanged, the estate will pass to Mr. Hoffman’s estranged girlfriend, outright and without any protections. 

·  Nothing will go directly to his children. If Ms. O’Donnell gets remarried and fails to plan properly, a large portion of Mr. Hoffman’s assets could go to Ms. O’Donnell’s new spouse, leaving Mr. Hoffman’s children with far less than he most likely would have wanted. 

· Had Mr. Hoffman listened to his advisors and worked with an estate planning attorney, he could have established a lasting legacy for his children, protecting them and their inheritances. 

With the counseling and advice of an experienced estate planning attorney, you can avoid mistakes like these. Contact our office today at (952) 658-6503 or info@goldleafestateplan.com to discuss your personal situation.