Mr. Hoffman died earlier this year at age 46, leaving a trail of movies (including Doubt, The Big Lebowski and Boogie Nights), theatrical performances (including Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey into Night) and awards. He also left a $35-million Estate, a partner and three children.
He made a Will in 2004, leaving his Estate to his partner, Mimi O’Donnell, and disinheriting his three (minor) children. A law firm in Wheaton, Illinois wrote a brief article about his notable lack of Estate planning.
In particular, since Hoffman did not believe in the “institution” of marriage, Ms. O’Donnell did not qualify for the marriage exemption on inherited assets. Instead of her inheriting the $35 million, about $15 million will go to state and federal taxes (leaving $20 million).
When Ms. O’Donnell dies, the remaining assets will be taxed yet again, because she was not married. However, if she does marry in future, her assets will pass to her spouse. Thus, Hoffman’s three surviving (minor) children are left financially vulnerable.
The inheritance law here in Canada, to be sure, differs from American law. But the point here is that Hoffman failed to do any reasonable Estate planning. The size of his Estate matters, but the failure to plan matters more.
This ad ran in the Richmond Review on September 26, 2014.