By Carol F. Barton
The tragic death of Actor Paul Walker in a high-speed car accident is a reminder that it is never too early to create an estate plan. Walker, who starred in The Fast and Furious movies, had the foresight to create an estate plan when he was only 28 years old – the same year in which he starred in the first of the movie series, which ultimately left him very wealthy. When he died, he was 40.
Walker’s father filed for probate shortly after Paul’s death. The probate filing revealed that Paul Walker’s estate is valued at over $25 million and that he created a revocable trust naming his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow as his sole beneficiary. Additionally, Walker named his mother as Meadow’s guardian and conservator.
Understanding that a Will was only a small part of estate planning, Walker took some very valuable additional steps to preserve and protect his estate.
- With his attorneys, Walker developed a revocable trust, most likely to simplify the probate process and to ensure that Meadow would receive her inheritance in a controlled fashion
- He named a guardian for his daughter. A wise step since Meadow’s mother is (according to media reports) an alcoholic and could be considered an unfit parent. Meadow was living with her grandmother at the time of her father’s death
- Walker might have kept his affairs private and out of probate had he fully funded the trust during his lifetime. Instead, Paul relied on his pour-over will to pass all of his assets to the trust upon his death. In the latter situation the estate plan is subject to public scrutiny because it passes through probate.
It appears that he had his daughter, and her situation, in mind when he decided to protect her financial future and ensure that she would be in a loving and nurturing environment upon his death. Yes, Paul Walker was wealthy but that does not mean that you have to be rich or old to create an estate plan.
One important step that Paul might have taken was to update his revocable trust. Walker created his trust in 2001 and his life changed in the following years – his estate grew significantly; he had a long-time relationship with a woman, and he had become a sponsor of Reach Out Worldwide. It’s possible that he might have included other individuals and/or the charity in his revocable trust had he reviewed his estate plan…say every two years.
Paul Walker planned well. He showed us that it is never too soon to create an estate plan. People are well-served by visiting an estate planning attorney – even at a young age – to discuss how to best protect their loved ones when they no longer can.