By Kenisha Lamarre, Rising Junior at UMass Amherst and Summer Intern at Ingle Law.
Have you ever thought about how dying without a will affects the people you leave behind? I know that prior to this summer, I hadn’t.
How A Lack of Estate Planning Effects the Family
Actor Chadwick Boseman passed away in August 2020 after several years of battling cancer. His death was tragic and many mourn this loss. Boseman was known for his recent roles in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “Da 5 Bloods”, “12 Bridges” and Marvel’s movie, “Black Panther”.
It’s estimated that Boseman had a net worth of $12 million at the time of his death, which included all the money he made during his lifetime. He died without a will, leaving the fate of his estate up to a California court. As a result, his family has had to endure a lengthy process that could’ve been avoided if he had a proper estate plan established.
Since Boseman died a resident of Los Angeles County, the probate court there, and the California laws of intestacy, will determine what happens with his estate. According to court documents, the estimated value of his estate is $3.6 million, which only includes assets subject to probate and not necessarily all of his assets.
In California, probate assets include any personal property or real estate that a deceased person owned in their name before passing. These may be intangible assets such as:
- their home
- a vacation residence
- or household goods
Going through the probate process requires your grieving spouse or close family members to have to go through long “waiting” periods to access these assets, and stress. Additionally, the process is extremely costly and burdensome. In the case of Boseman’s estate, nearly $1,000,000 was lost to fees and expenses!
This Tedious Process is Unnecessary and Can Be Avoided
Boseman’s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, was named administrator of his estate. The administrator (what we call a personal representative in Massachusetts) is responsible for managing the estate of a deceased. This, however, does not always mean that individual inherits the deceased’s property.
Who receives the inheritance is determined by your estate plan. If you don’t have one, like Boseman, inheritance is determined by state law.
Boseman lives in a community property state, meaning the property he acquired during his marriage is presumed to be equally owned by both spouses. Since Boseman and Ledward were married for such a short time, there was little to no community property.
Boseman died with no children but was married, and his parents remain alive. California law dictates that in this case, Boseman’s spouse inherits all of the community property and half of his separate property. His parents inherit the other half of his separate property.
Where You Live Matters in Probate Administration!
Each state is different. Unlike California, Massachusetts is a separate property state. This means property distributions are different (however, the process in Massachusetts is equally burdensome). Who inherits depends on whether you died with or without a spouse, had or did not have children, and if your parents are still alive when you die.
What a handful, right?
You can decide, though, how you want your property to be distributed through a proper estate plan instead of having state laws choose for you. Your estate plan can be created to accomplish your goals and carry out your wishes.
In a nutshell, here’s what you should know: estate planning is not just for the wealthy.
It is a legal right to:
- determine who will inherit and manage the assets you have accumulated in your lifetime
- protect your wishes
- and prevent strain on family members during a very difficult time
Having options that best fit you and your needs is essential. This is why you should have an estate plan.
Estate Planning is For You.
It can be difficult to think about the inevitable, which is all the more reason to have an estate plan in place, sooner rather than later. Estate planning lawyers are here to help you stay informed and to develop an effective plan for you. You will be able to rest easy and have peace of mind knowing you have provided support and stability for your loved ones.
Contact us to get one started.