Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP - Estate Planning

What to Watch Out for If There's a Sudden Death in Your Family

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Did you know that Anthony Bourdain's will revealed that the celebrity chef and author had an estate of only $1.21 million? Estimates of the TV star's worth had been around $16 million, which made the revelations from his will even more startling. This is an example of how sudden death can uncover some very big surprises when it comes to an estate.

How Can a Sudden Death in Your Family Uncover Startling Estate Issues?

Bourdain named his daughter as the primary beneficiary of his estate using a testamentary trust. This trust will release funds to Bourdain's daughter in steps in order to keep her from being overwhelmed by the nature of her large inheritance. However, Bourdain's estranged wife-who was named as an executor of his estate-may have a large claim to the man's estate as well. The two never finalized their divorce, meaning she can use probate laws to lay claim on a third of the celebrity's estate.

Though it is obvious that Bourdain actively put an estate plan in action before his death, it suffers from several failings. First, it could have utilized a living trust that allowed his daughter to access assets when needed while building value through investments. Second, his estate had not been recently updated to account for life changes such as the yet-to-be finalized divorce from his wife. These aren't the only problems that can be found in estate plans after a decedent's passing.

Beneficiaries could find that their decedent did not keep up with his or her taxes, leaving the IRS to carve out a chunk of their inheritance. Another unforeseen issue that can pop up are offshore accounts that were not properly reported to the IRS. These accounts can garnish steep penalties and if not handled properly by the inheritor, criminal charges could be incurred. These liabilities could even go so far as to ensnare an estate's executor-who could find themselves on the hook to fully repay any creditors against the decedent.

These situations can make it just as important to have an estate attorney by your side after a loved one's passing as it is to have representation before you pass. Experienced guidance can help executors avoid liabilities, ensure that tax issues are addressed, and can help you sort out foreign accounts. Contact our Danville and San Jose attorneys if you are concerned about these issues after a sudden death. We can help you sort through the fallout.

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