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Update: Philip Seymour Hoffman was afraid to spoil his heirs

Back on Feb. 26, we wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate ("Where did Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate planning go wrong?"). More details recently came to light regarding why he may have set up his estate the way he did. Reportedly, he was adamant about not allowing his children to be considered "trust-fund kids," and his estate planning reflects that. Some New Jersey residents may not know that his children were not among the heirs to his estate. Virtually everything will pass to his partner of many years, to whom he was not married.

Without the use of trusts, the IRS is going to be owed a substantial sum of Hoffman's estimated $35 million estate. Since he and his partner were not married, all but $5.4 million of Hoffman's estate is subject to federal estate tax. This means that the IRS could receive a windfall of as much as $12 million.

Had Hoffman created trusts for his partner and the children, the majority of tax liability could have been avoided. Perhaps Hoffman did not understand the nature of trusts. These documents can be tailor made to ensure that an individual's wishes are adhered to after death.

Each trust can contain certain provisions and restrictions regarding distributions. Many trust creators require that distributions only be made at certain ages and for certain things like education, medical care and basic living expenses. Access to the trust assets by a beneficiary can be restricted.

A trust does not have to be complicated to be effective. A will may be adequate for many New Jersey residents, but others may need trusts in order to properly manage the assets of the estate and ensure that those assets are available for the benefit of heirs in the future. In Hoffman's case, this could have saved his partner and children from the loss of millions of dollars to the IRS that could have provided for them for years to come.

Source: MarketWatch, "What Philip Seymour Hoffman should have done with his money", Melissa Montgomery-Fitzsimmons, July 26, 2014

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