A Cautionary Tale from the Estate Plans of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker

The passing of two prominent motion picture stars – Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker – in the last year provides a cautionary tale on the importance of keeping your estate plan and will up to date. In Philip Seymour Hoffman’s case, his will created in 2004 had never been updated even after the birth of two children. Paul Walker’s will created in 2001 had also never been updated to reflect the changes in his life.

Review and Update Your Family Wealth Plan Regularly

An estate plan review should occur whenever there is a major change in your life – like a birth, death or divorce. This is essential to ensure that your estate plan stays up to date with your life and that the people you love are taken care of in the way you intend. After all, your life will change, your assets will change, and the tax laws change. Your plan needs to change as well.

Following are some additional steps you can take to be sure that your estate plan stays up to date:

  • Make it easy to find. It is not uncommon for people to file away a will and estate plan in a safe deposit box or a hidden location.
  • Make wise choices in executors and/or trustees. You should name more than one person as executor and/or trustee – you will want to include alternates if for some reason your primary choice cannot serve. You should also have a discussion with each person that you have chosen to ensure their willingness to take on the job.
  • Avoid contradictions in your estate plan. Review your plan to confirm that your will and trust do not contradict your choices for beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.
  • Name guardians. If you have minor children, one of the most important functions of your estate plan is to name guardians. Once again, it is a good idea to name alternates as well. You want to ensure that the future of your children does not end up in the hands of a judge who doesn’t know you or the choices you might have made for your children.

We have a free report we can send you on the six common mistakes parents make when naming guardians – mistakes you definitely want to avoid! Just contact our office for a free copy of this valuable report.

  • Beware of an unintentional disinheritance. For instance, if you have children from a prior marriage that you wish to provide for as well as your current spouse, you will want to make sure you have the necessary provisions in your estate plan. However, if you wish to intentionally disinherit someone, you should specifically state your intentions in your will.
  • Get professional guidance. Wills, trusts and other estate planning documents found on the Internet will not be tailored to the specific needs of your family. I strongly encourage you to seek out the experience of a qualified attorney to help you avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your family’s financial future.

The best way to learn about protecting your family is to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. During this session, we will also discuss the various ways we work with you to ensure that your family wealth plan is reveiwed and updated regularly.


This article is a service of Jill Gregory Law, a Personal Family Lawyer® firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life and Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by clicking the button above or calling our office today at 949-514-8842 or 530-581-5455, to schedule a free 15 Minute Phone Consult with Jill Gregory, or a full Planning Session today. Mention this article to find out how to get this $750 Life and Legacy Planning Session at no charge.

The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.