The world was shaken last month by the death of Kobe Bryant. He was only 41 years old.
He made news in 1996 when he became the sixth person to go directly from high school into the NBA and the first point guard. He was 17 at the time and his parents had to sign the contract for him. His three-year contract was for $3.5 million. Over the next twenty years, he became a household name and earned a lot more than $3.5 million. It’s estimated he earned $680 million during his career. He invested his money, mostly in a venture capital firm now worth billions. Tragedies like this remind us how fragile life can be and should encourage us to plan for the worst.
This is the perfect storm for estate planning and probate lawyers like me.
Kobe had a valuable estate – probably the largest estate any athlete has ever had – and he died suddenly, tragically, much younger than anyone would have expected. He left behind his wife and three minor children (his oldest just turned 17, his 13-year-old daughter died with him). One can only imagine how the family is reeling from the loss. Add to that the possibility of the chaos that can surround a large probate estate and when there is that much money involved, it is almost guaranteed someone will turn this into a fight. Some things can’t be foreseen. Kobe’s estate could be facing up to seven wrongful death lawsuits from the families of the other people in the helicopter.
The first question is did he have an estate plan? In Kobe’s case, he probably did. Most 41-year-olds haven’t thought about an estate plan. In fact, AARP estimates 60% of American adults don’t have a will. Kobe was a prominent and successful investor. He never went to college, but he could have easily. He was fluent in three languages. He was smart. In all probability, Kobe was not like most men his age in this respect too. He probably had at least some documents in place. On the other hand, Prince died in 2016 without a will. Aretha Franklin died in 2018 without a will. Celebrities are still people, and people often do not want to think about their own end.
But assuming Kobe had a plan, who will be in charge? Most married people expect that their spouse will “handle things” when they die. But for most people, handling things doesn’t mean having to manage a multi-billion dollar company dropped in your lap while mourning the loss of a spouse and child. If he had no plan, then the tragedy becomes even worse.
Having no estate plan would be a big mistake whether you are a star athlete or you work in transit or anywhere in between. If you have family and own anything at all, it’s important to have those discussions, make those plans, and at the very least have a will.
Hopefully, you are successful enough so that you’ve had to think about it, and hopefully, you’ve made a plan. High-value estates become targets for lawsuits. Estate plans can be structured to protect from certain claims so that your estate goes where you want it to go. A good estate planning attorney can guide you around most contingencies though.
Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant is a full-service estate planning law firm serving Florida residents throughout Flagler and Volusia Counties since 1973. The firm has offices in Palm Coast (386-753-3293) and Ormond Beach (386-238-9288), Florida. For more details, contact them today. The offices are open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.