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Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate planning mistakes

Planning for death is difficult for most people, as very few of us want to think about our own mortality. Yet, planning for the distribution of your assets can be a great way to put your mind at ease and ensure that your beneficiaries are recipient to whatever property you want to leave to them. Without proper estate planning or errant planning, your estate could wind up facing delays, excessive costs and distribution that completely goes against your wishes.

To see an example of just how serious these matters can be, one need only look at Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate. The actor, who passed away in 2014, left all of his assets to his girlfriend via will. According to the will, the girlfriend is to use the money to raise his children and ensure that they visit major metropolitan areas to obtain an appreciation for the arts. However, simple errors in Hoffman's planning may have cost his family millions of dollars.

First of all, since Hoffman and his girlfriend were not married at the time of his death, nearly $12 million of his estate will have to be paid to cover estate taxes. Had the couple been married, this cost would have been zero. Additionally, since his estate passed to his beneficiaries via will, Hoffman's estate will have to go through probate, meaning thousands of dollars in expenses and delays in asset distribution.

Hoffman may have been able to avoid these issues if he had gotten married and created specific trusts that would have protected the assets from creditors and even future divorce. Yet, Hoffman didn't, like many Americans don't, know the ins and outs of estate planning. Therefore, in order to protect their assets and ensure their estate passes according to their wishes, Illinois residents may want to discuss their situation with an attorney of their choosing.

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