How Can Chadwick Boseman Have a Trust, But Not a Will?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
April 15, 2021
Chadwick Boseman, known most notably for his portrayal of T’Challa (aka Black Panther) in Black Panther, died in August of 2020 after a years-long battle with colon cancer. He was only 43, yet in that time he had a lot of success in the entertainment industry.
Unfortunately, like many other celebrities, it appears that Boseman didn’t have a will in place at the time of his death. Instead, it’s been speculated — but not yet confirmed — that he used trusts for the bulk of his wealth.
However, it begs the question: how could he have had a trust but not a will? Most of the time when a trust is in place, a will has been created as well.
Here’s what you need to know about trusts and wills, as well as what can be learned from Boseman’s oversight of leaving no will behind.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that instructs and informs exactly how you’d like your material and financial assets distributed after you die. In a will, you can appoint a personal representative of your choosing, name beneficiaries to your estate, leave instructions for how those beneficiaries are to receive their inheritance, and designate legal guardians for your minor children.
Wills are submitted upon your death to the probate court in Florida. Once it is in probate court, a judge must determine whether or not a will is valid and legal. If a will is found valide, the personal representative may then begin to move forward with the business of resolving outstanding financial liabilities and then distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
What Is a Trust?
A legal entity that exists solely to protect the assets of an estate is called a trust. Trusts are usually pursued by people with significant assets like, for example, actors in major motion pictures.
Frequently, however, trusts can be quite valuable even for those with modest assets. How so? Probably the most important reason is that anything you place in a trust gets to skip probate and go straight to whoever is listed as the beneficiary. This is important because probate can be lengthy and complicated, leaving your loved ones waiting for an expected inheritance for months or even years. Assets are managed by a fiduciary, preserved and protected. Protected from who? Anyone you don’t want to be benefiting from them; for example, beneficiaries’ spouses, creditors or even themselves if they are financially irresponsible. There’s tax benefits too.
However, in most cases you still need a will to take actions such as appointing a guardian for minor children.
What About the Situation with Chadwick Boseman’s Estate?
Although Chadwick Boseman did not have a will, he was married, giving his wife the right to assets held in his name at the time of his death.
However, Boseman’s wife has to now go through probate to claim any remaining assets that her husband left behind – which are thought to be a little under $1 million. That means she’ll now have to go through some lengthy court proceedings that can result in Boseman’s estate being public information.
The possibility that there is a trust or trusts out there is a separate issue that only impacts the specific assets that are in these hypothetical trusts. Unfortunately, since those trusts are still hypothetical, it’s unclear what assets may or may not be in them, further complicating matters.
Don’t let this happen to your loved ones. Make sure you engage in thorough estate planning while you’re still healthy to make the process go as smoothly as possible. If you need guidance for a trust or will, then let the experienced attorneys at Haimo Law help.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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