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Untimely death puts focus on estate-administration issues

An untimely death can raise estate issues in very pointed ways.

When death comes suddenly, to someone who is still in the prime of life, the emotional elements of the sudden loss tend to make resolving the issues even more challenging.

In this post, we will discuss some of the estate administration issues that have followed the sudden death in a car accident of Paul Walker, the star of the "Fast and Furious" movies.

Walker was only 40 when he died last November. He is survived by a 15-year-old daughter, his mother and his father.

Walker did not only have a will in place. He had created a revocable living trust, with his daughter as the only beneficiary.

Commentators who are knowledgeable about the estate-planning process generally encourage people to address the question of guardianship. That is what Walker did. In his will, he designated his daughter’s grandmother as her guardian.

The uncertain aspect of the guardianship in this case is that it is the 15-year-old girl’s mother, not her grandmother, who actually has legal custody. It may therefore take some time to determine who will have custody of the girl.

The revocable living trust that her father created for her, however, should enable the girl to receive the benefits of the trust as appropriate to her age. Unlike wills, trusts are not public documents. But it is generally good practice to structure revocable trusts so that a young person doesn’t get the entire amount all at once when turning 18.

In this case, the trust was not fully funded during the lifetime of the trust settlor (person creating the trust). The father’s assets were not transferred to the name of the trust during his lifetime.

But the father funded the trust through another effective way: by using a pour-over will.

Source: Forbes, "Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Feb. 10, 2014

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