Earlier this month, news broke of the tragic circumstances surrounding Philip Seymour Hoffman, a talented actor who died of an apparent drug overdose. Soon after the dust settled, news stories started to come out about Hoffman’s will, and how his estate was going to be handled. One of the major elements to his estate was the fact that Hoffman only mentioned his firstborn son. When he signed his will in late 2004, his son was his only child.
However, he would go on to have two more kids (both daughters). Neither are referred to in the will, and it could take a hefty legal battle by Hoffman’s significant other, Marianne O’Donnell, to try to restore some estate rights to Hoffman’s (and her) children.
One possibility that O’Donnell has is to invoke her right of disclaim — which would mean she would turn down part or all of her inheritance. But by doing that, what she refuses could go into a trust. Unfortunately, that trust is only accessible to Hoffman’s son, so again O’Donnell would have to make a strong case to allow their two daughters access to the trust.
We talked about updating beneficiaries in your will in our last post, and this story only shows a real life example of how failing to do so can cause a lot of legal turmoil for your family. The situation Hoffman’s family is facing is commonly called the “after born child” problem. Obviously there are ways to make the wrongs right when an estate fails to mention a seemingly-obvious beneficiary; but it can still be complicated.
Source: Forbes, “Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will Raises Legal Problems,” Deborah L. Jacobs, Feb. 20, 2014