Many of you are probably familiar with the actor Luke Perry. Maybe you know him from his days playing Dylan on the popular 1990’s TV drama 90210 or possibly from his more recent role as Frank Andrews on the hit show Riverdale. On May 4th, Perry unexpectedly passed away at the age of 52 due to complications from a stroke he suffered a week prior. In departing this life far too early, Perry shows us all why estate planning is important at any stage of life.
From what details have been gathered regarding Perry’s Estate Planning, it appears that his plan contained many of the documents we regularly recommend to our clients. First, it is likely that Perry had an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) given that his family ended life sustaining treatment without Court intervention. In California, without one’s end of life decisions expressly documented in an AHCD (and if the family is unable to agree as to what should be done), the Court would need to issue an Order to appoint a conservator to make health care decisions on the patient’s behalf once s/he were determined to be incapacitated or an Order to terminate the life sustaining measures would need to be issued.
Second, it was well known that Perry did have a will created in 2015 that left his entire estate to his two children. While this basic estate planning helps to facilitate the process following one’s death, in California, as in Delaware, Perry’s Estate would still be subject to Probate, which is a public, Court Guided Process to facilitate the management of an estate. Probate is a costly and lengthy process, leading many to want to avoid it if possible. One option to avoid Probate is the creation of a Revocable Living Trust, provided that all assets are properly transferred into the trust. Given the size of Perry’s estate (an estimated $10 million), legal experts find it likely that a Trust had been created and that Probate will be avoided.
It remains unclear whether Perry’s estate plan had been recently changed to include his fiancée. If the will/trust documents had not been changed to include her, she would lose any right to his estate since they were not married at the time of his death. As exhibited by Perry’s untimely death and the questions now surrounding his fiancée’s right to inherit, or lack thereof, we can see not only the importance of creating a well-rounded estate plan early, but to continue to update the same so that your plan continues to reflect your wishes through each season of life.
Sources: Mayoras, Danielle & Andy, Luke Perry Protected His Family with Estate Planning, Forbes (March 8, 2019).
Joint Committee on Biomedical Ethics of the Los Angeles County Medical Association and Los Angeles County Bar Association, Guidelines for Physicians: Forgoing Life-Sustaining Treatment for Adult Patients (March 22, 2006).