Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman – No Trust Fund Kids for Me

When Academy-award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died back in February after injecting himself with a mixture of heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine, he left behind three young children, son Cooper, age 10, and daughters Tallulah, 7, and Willa, 5, and an estate estimated to be worth $35 million. The actor also left behind a Last Will and Testament that was nearly 10 years old which bequeathed his entire estate to his “friend and companion,” costume designer Marianne “Mimi” O’Donnell.

Although Ms. O’Donnell is the mother of Mr. Hoffman’s three children, it seems odd that the actor didn’t (1) update his will after his daughters were born, or (2) leave anything at all to the children, doesn’t it?  Well, the reasons behind Mr. Hoffman’s unusual decision – to leave his entire estate to the mother of his children, a woman he chose not to marry, instead of at least part to his children – were revealed recently when legal papers were filed in Mr. Hoffman’s probate estate matter that is being overseen in Manhattan’s Surrogate Court.

According to the court documents filed in late July by Brooklyn attorney James Cahill, who is the court-appointed guardian for Mr. Hoffman’s children, although Mr. Hoffman did not believe in marriage, he treated Ms. O’Donnell like a spouse, including holding significant assets in joint names with her, and he believed that as the mother of his children she would take care of them.  The documents also reveal that over the past several years, including as recently as last year, Mr. Hoffman’s accountant tried to convince the actor to establish a trust fund for his children, but he refused, saying that he didn’t want them to become “trust fund kids.”

In a prior post I wrote about making your estate plan your decision – well that’s certainly what Mr. Hoffman chose to do.  But you have to wonder if he really knew that by choosing not to marry Ms. O’Donnell, about 40% of his estate (that’s $15 million) will go to pay estate taxes (both to the IRS and in New York).  And apparently Mr. Hoffman didn’t know that the right estate planning attorney can prevent your children from becoming “trust fund kids” by drafting the trust to simply not allow it.  It’s one thing to make your estate plan your way, but it’s another to make a plan that will hurt your family both emotionally and financially.

Photo: © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

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One thought on “Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman – No Trust Fund Kids for Me

  1. New York palimony law seems vague but a claim also seems possible. If O’Donnell asserted a claim against the estate for palimony based on an implied agreement, then she could convert a portion (and with 3 kids, probably a large portion) of the bequest (taxable) to a debt (deductible) for estate tax purposes. It seems worth a shot … wonder if they are looking at that?

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