Anyone that frequently watches the Food and Travel Channel has stumbled upon Anthony Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown. The premise of the show is Bourdain, a well-known American chef, visits countries around the world to try their local cuisine. Recently, and tragically, Bourdain passed away while filming the show in France.
I stumbled upon an article claiming that Bourdain’s Will was not “an accurate reflection of his worth.” (Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/celebrity/anthony-bourdains-will-isnt-an-accurate-reflection-of-his-worth-plus-more-news/ss-AAzGvs9?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp) Being the estate planning geek I am, I clicked on the link to see what the article had to say. Bourdain’s Will was probated in a New York Court, which due to probate being a public proceeding, further information was easily attainable by news outlets. In the Court filings, assets were disclosed, which totaled around $1.2 million dollars.
If you are thinking, “Bourdain was a famous chef and television personality … and he is only worth $1.2 million dollars?” The answer is quite easy: Bourdain had created a Trust, but had clearly not funded all his assets into said Trust. The world, excluding his Trust beneficiary(ies), may never know how much Bourdain was actually worth because Trusts are administered privately – while assets flowing through a person’s Will are distributed publicly via a court proceeding (probate).
Eerily enough, that means parts (unfortunately not all) of Bourdain’s estate plan are, and may always be, unknown due to his trust planning. So, what can we learn from this?
- Trusts, if appropriately funded, avoid probate and allows an individual’s estate to be settled privately – opposed to a public court proceeding. Do we have any idea how much is held in the Trust? Who is getting all the money? Thankfully, it seems that most of his estate is held in the Trust, so the answers to those questions may never be discovered.
- Approximately $1.2 million dollars of assets will be distributed in accordance with Bourdain’s Will, which means that they were not funded into the name of his Trust. Therefore, it is important to remember as your net worth increases or if you make changes to your assets, you should stop and ask yourself, “Does this impact my estate plan?”
- Bourdain’s ex-wife is the listed (and appointed) Executor of his Will. I admit I am not familiar with him and his ex-wife’s relationship – though, I have to wonder if that remained his intention. Perhaps they were amicable, perhaps he trusted her, or perhaps he “forgot” to update his estate plan post-divorce. The lesson here is that if a big life event occurs (marriage, divorce, having children, etc.), double check its impact on your estate plan.
- Bourdain has an eleven year old daughter that survives him. Ideally, in one’s estate plan, there will be specific provisions that state how much a minor gets, when he/she gets it, and who will be in charge of it through the process. Consider the possibility that you can even apply such custom provisions for adult children – you have the opportunity to detail how much they get and when, too, with specific planning.
You hear story after story about celebrities and their estate plans, or lack thereof. It only makes the news because of who they are, but these mistakes happen all the time to people like you and I. The easy way to avoid your estate plan going off-course is to … well, stop talking about it and do your estate plan and/or remember that it is not a “one and done” thing. It should most certainly grow with you as you age, acquire new assets, experience a decline in health, children have children, etc.
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