When Paul William Walker IV, star of the “The Fast and the Furious” movies, died, in a tragic irony, in a high-speed car collision last November, he left behind more than a legacy of high-speed action flicks. He left a will to assure that his 15-year-old daughter’s needs would be provided for in the event of his untimely demise. Ventura County residents can learn a lot from this estate planning case study.
At the time of its probate filing, Walker’s estate reported assets of roughly $25 million. This was split almost evenly between personal property, expected income and net real estate assets. It is clear from the probate reports that Walker’s will was created mainly to provide for his daughter. The filing revealed a revocable living trust with his daughter as the sole beneficiary. It also revealed that Walker had nominated a guardian for his daughter — in this case, his own mother. He did not leave anything to his girlfriend of seven years.
Creating a trust for his daughter and naming a guardian for her were wise steps. However, the trust was not fully funded during Walker’s life. If he had done that, he could have avoided the costly and time-consuming probate court process. Even though his will was a pour-over will which passed all his assets into the trust, he could have kept his personal affairs private and avoided the hassle of probate court had he directly funded the trust while alive. While it was good thinking to name a guardian for his daughter, the court will still need to review his request. The law still favors custodial parents, so his guardianship designation may be denied.
In addition, Walker’s will was signed in 2001, when his career was young. He failed to update his documents in the 12 years prior to his death. In that time, his parents could have become incapacitated or deceased. He did not update documents to provide for his girlfriend, although he could have neglected that intentionally, or provided for her in other ways, such as a life insurance policy or joint bank account.
His assets probably also grew significantly over 12 years, and he could have taken advantage of tax-reducing strategies as his estate burgeoned. The main lesson for Ventura residents to learn from Walker’s estate is that trust planning needs to be updated frequently, with the aid of an estate planning attorney.
Source: Forbes, “Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Feb. 10, 2014