News

Too young for an estate plan? Think again!

After Paul Walker died in a car crash last November two questions went viral on the web: What will happen to Fast & Furious 7, the film the action movie hero was last working on, and who will inherit the 40-year-old’s fortune of $45 million? Walker, it seems, did not have an estate plan, meaning things between his loved ones might get contentious.

Whatever the outcome in Walker’s case may be, from a financial perspective, there’s a simple lesson to learn: You are never too young to protect your assets by making a plan. (Your assets, by the way, include everything you own, be it furniture, a car, a home, a retirement account or investments. Estate planning, therefore, is not just for the wealthy. It’s for the 99%, too.)

Estate planning is easy. You begin by recording your assets and liabilities. Then you look at your personal goals and answer some questions for yourself: Whom should your assets go to? Who would be next in line if the assigned beneficiaries die before you do? Who should take care of your minor children? Who should manage their inheritance? Who will make health care decisions for you and manage your affairs if you become incapacitated? Once you have thought about these objectives, you will want to seek professional advice from an estate planning attorney who will draft your documents.

Being proactive offers many advantages. First of all, with an estate plan, you rather than the state or someone else’s attorney get to determine the fate of your assets and of your minor children. Second, your estate will not have to go through probate, which is usually a lengthy and costly affair, and you can minimize transfer taxes. Third, an estate plan can function as a tool for planning ahead in case you become incapacitated. Last but not least, having a plan will make life easier for your loved ones at a time when they’d rather grieve over their loss than fight over your legacy.

Speaking of grief, the family members surviving Paul Walker include a teenage daughter and her mother — she raised the girl until a few years ago — as well as the actor’s parents and his girlfriend of the last seven years. It will take months before the final word on who gets what is out. As for the actor’s film legacy — according to The Hollywood Reporter, Walker’s character, Brian O’Connor, will be retired in the series rather than killed off. Originally due out this summer, Fast & Furious 7 will apparently hit theaters in April 2015.

by Kevin J. Moore