Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of my favorite actors. He starred in Charlie Wilson's War, Hunger Games, Pirate Radio and many more major movies. His roles covered a wide range, from a priest in Doubt to a coach of the Oakland A's in Moneyball, which evidenced his unique ability as an actor.
The lack of planning results in his estate owing estate tax of approximately $12 million. If Philip had married Mimi, his family would have saved approximately $12 million and paid no estate tax whatsoever.
Philip also stipulated that funds were to be used for his kids to visit major metropolitan areas for the express purpose of providing his children with access to the arts. This is an example of an incentive provision or trust to help motivate his kids to become the adults that Philip wanted them to become.
The use of a will requires probate, resulting in delays, additional costs and public proceedings. For example, the probate costs for “ordinary services” in California, where I’m based, amount to largely statutory fees, resulting in approximately $376,000 for the first $25 million in estate value and an additional "reasonable amount" to be determined by the court for the remaining $10 million of estate value if that probate is based in California. Those fees are based upon the gross value of the assets without any reduction for liens, selling costs or mortgages. In addition to the statutory fees for ordinary services, extraordinary fees are paid for services related to the sale of real property or a business, tax matters, debt collection or negotiation.
Additional costs for a "living probate" or guardianship for each of the three children may also be required. In California, this typically would require a court appearance and fees every two years until they each turn 18. Fees can be substantial and will vary based widely upon the circumstances and needs of the minor child and the value, type and number of assets involved. They would receive any share of assets to be distributed to them at that time. Not a good age to receive significant wealth. Complete access to funds may result in his kids becoming the trust fund kids Philip hoped to avoid.
An average probate in California without litigation or other issues takes between nine months and 1.5 years. Philip's probate will almost certainly take longer due to the size and complexity. After the probate is completed, Philip's estate will be at risk after distribution to Mimi if she is sued, challenged by her creditors or even in a later divorce if she remarries. That legacy may also be reduced by a second estate tax on her death.
Philip could have provided for Mimi with a Personal Asset Trust, which would help protect her from divorce, lawsuits by predators or fortune hunters, creditors and even a second estate tax imposed on Mimi when she dies.