Best known for starring on Beverly Hills 90210, television star Luke Perry passed away three months ago at the age of 52. He suffered a massive stroke and five days later – surrounded by family and loved ones, he was removed from life support. His sudden death came as a shock. He appeared fit and hearty, was not really that “old” yet his death resulted from something most would characterize as an “old people’s disease.” His passing is a reminder that none of us know when our time on this earth is up. Death comes for us all. Thankfully, though relatively young, it appears that Perry wisely made appropriate legal preparations for his passing. In 2015, following a cancer scare, he prepared a will protecting his two children.
Perry’s family’s ability to make the painful decision to remove him from life support confirms that he likely had prepared other important estate planning documents that would allow his family to make that difficult decision without court involvement. In California, absent an Advanced Healthcare Directive or Medical Power of Attorney, an order from the probate court would be required, before a family like Perry’s could take that kind of action. Such court action is public, and can often be painful and protracted.
It also seems likely that Perry prepared a living trust to go along with his Will, allowing the assets of his purported $10 million estate to pass swiftly to his children without court involvement. If he did not prepare a trust, then his Will will inevitably have to pass through the probate court before his estate can be distributed to his heirs. Time will tell.
Perry’s tragic passing reminds us of another young acting star who passed suddenly and tragically. Paul Walker is probably best known for starring in the Fast & Furious franchise. Like Perry, he was a handsome Hollywood heartthrob who seemed to have it all. Sadly, Walker was only 40 when he died in a tragic fiery car crash in 2013. The estimated value of his estate when he passed was $25 million. He was survived by his parents and a 15 year-old daughter. Fortunately, like Luke Perry, Walker seems to have been wise enough to have made preparations while he was still a young man. Walker signed his Will in 2001, right around the time the first Fast & Furious film was released. He was 28 at the time, and his daughter was only three years-old. His Will is what’s known as a pour-over Will that “pours over” any assets not already in trust, into the trust. So, it seems clear that Walker’s estate plan included the pour-over Will and a living trust. Unlike a Will, the trust agreement is not a public record, so the details of who received what and when and how will not be made public. But what is clear, is that Walker ensured that his desires and concerns for his daughter and other loved ones were memorialized in his trust agreement, and that his beloved daughter was cared for and protected.
Too many of us tempt fate by not taking action to prepare for our future and the future of those that we love. Many wait until some catastrophe occurs that reminds us of our mortality. Some wait until they receive bad news from their medical doctor. Whether from a stroke or cancer or a catastrophic accident, we simply cannot know the timing of fate. Thus, though there may never be a good time to prepare an estate plan, waiting until something serious happens is definitely not a good time. Rather, it is far better to take advantage of the time when the time is available. Luke Perry and Paul Walker took the time and made preparations to preserve their legacy and protect those that they loved. In both of their cases their deaths came so suddenly that, had they not prepared, it would have been too late.
Investing the time and money to prepare an estate plan is an expression of wisdom and of love. It reflects wise stewards who care enough for their family and loved ones to take the appropriate measures to protect the financial and life legacy for which they’ve worked so hard and so long, so that upon their passing, their legacy lives on through the generations. In the words of Russell C. Taylor: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
If you’ve not yet taken the time to prepare your estate plan, take action now! Call to make an appointment today! You can’t imagine the kind of security and peace of mind it will bring.