On October 15th, nearly two months after the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, his wife Taylor Simone Ledward filed documents with the Los Angeles probate court seeking to be named administrator of his estate. Earlier this year, Boseman and Ledward were married, and the marriage gives Ledward the right to any assets held in Boseman’s name at his death.
Boseman died at age 43 on August 28th following a four-year battle with colon cancer. Based on the court documents, it seems the young actor died without a will. While Boseman’s failure to create a will is surprising, he’s far from the first celebrity to do so. In fact, numerous big-name stars—Aretha Franklin, Prince, and Jimi Hedrix—all made the same mistake.
What makes Boseman’s story somewhat unique from the others is that it seems likely the young actor put some estate planning tools in place, but it’s possible he didn’t quite finish the job. Based on the number of hit films he starred in and how much he earned for those films, several sources have noted that Boseman’s assets at the time of his death should have been worth far more than the approximately $939,000 listed in probate court documents.
What happened to the rest of Boseman’s wealth? Seeing that his death wasn’t a surprise, some commentators have suggested that the bulk of Boseman’s assets passed through private trusts. If that’s the case, why didn’t he also have a will, which would almost always be created alongside trusts?
Last week in part one, we discussed a few potential explanations for this apparent blind spot in Boseman’s estate plan. The young actor might have prevented the situation by creating a pour-over will to be used as a back-up to any trusts he had put in place. Here in part two, we’ll focus on another critical component of Boseman’s estate plan—incapacity planning.
Protecting your assets is only the start
While it was critical for Boseman to create planning vehicles to ensure the proper distribution of his assets upon his death, that’s just part of the overall planning he needed. The young actor also needed to plan for his potential incapacity. Given that he had cancer, the need for comprehensive incapacity planning would’ve been exponentially vital.
Regardless of his age or health condition, Boseman, like all adults over 18 years old, should have three essential planning documents in place to protect against potential incapacity from illness or injury. These include a medical power of attorney, living will, and durable financial power of attorney.
Should you become incapcitated and unable to handle your own affairs, these planning tools would give the individuals of your choice the immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions, without the need for court intervention. If prepared properly, these documents can even allow your family to engage in planning that would support your eligibility for government healthcare benefits support, if needed. Finally, such documents would also provide clear guidance about how your medical care and treatment should be carried out, particularly at end-of-life.
If you became incapacitated without such planning tools in place, your family would have to destitute your estate before you could claim governmental support for your medical care. Your loved ones would also have to petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage your affairs, which can be extremely costly, time consuming, and even traumatic.
Seeing that Boseman was suffering from end-stage colon cancer, such planning tools for incapacity would’ve been an absolutely critical part of his plan. While we don’t know for sure if he had such documents in place, given that he died peacefully at home surrounded by his friends and loved ones, it seems more than likely he did.
No one here gets out alive
As Boseman’s death illustrates, even superheroes need to plan for the future. Death and illness can strike any of us at any time. Regardless of how much money you have, you need a comprehensive estate plan in place, not only to protect and pass on your material assets to your loved ones, but also to ensure you’ll be properly cared for in the event of your incapacity from illness or injury.
Whether you already have a plan created or nothing at all, meet with your Family Wealth Lawyer to discuss the specific planning strategies best suited for your particular situation. With us on your side, you’ll have access to the same planning tools and protections that A-list celebrities use, which are designed to keep your family out of court or conflict no matter what happens. Contact us today to learn more.
This article is a service of Elena Ortega-Tauler, Family Wealth Lawyer. 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 Family Wealth 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 calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.