Actress Naya Rivera, best known for her work on the TV series Glee, has been presumed dead by local authorities after an apparent boating accident at Lake Piru in Ventura County. Like many celebrity deaths, this tragedy is a good reminder that tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Rivera, 33, and her ex-husband, actor Ryan Dorsey, share custody of their 4-year-old boy, who was found alone on a pontoon boat following his mother’s disappearance. Because of the joint custody situation, there is likely no issue around the physical guardianship and Dorsey will gain full custody.
What happens to Rivera’s estate is less clear without any knowledge of her estate plan. If proper planning was not done, there might be a need for guardianship of the estate, assuming she left everything to her children, or worse, died intestate (without a will).
In 2018, Rivera sold her home in Los Feliz for $3.55 million and is worth an estimated $5 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. She also owns a Los Angeles-based children’s clothing line called Jojo and Izzy.
Ideally, Rivera would have set up a trust by which her estate avoids a long, costly probate process. The trust would name her beneficiaries. Assuming her son and other minor children are among the beneficiaries, she should decide the manner that the child receives the inheritance.
That’s an important issue when minor children are involved. Oftentimes, someone who is unaware of options just says give it to the minor when they turn 18. However, in my opinion, most 18-year-olds are not mature enough to receive an inheritance, especially a large one. So, after discussion, most of my clients will usually pick a date between 25 – 35 years old as to when the child receives the inheritance. The money can be spent on behalf of the child before that date, but the trustee of the trust, and not the child, controls what it is spent for. For example, the child asks for a Lamborghini and the trustee says you can have a Dodge Challenger, or maybe something a little tamer than that if appropriate.
Some parents want to stagger the distribution to children in order to give them more than one opportunity to blow it. Perhaps the child might get a third of the inheritance at 25, another third at 30 and the rest at age 35.
Other parents might want to create incentives for the children, so maybe they might say the child gets the money when he or she gets his or her Bachelor’s Degree or a certification in a recognized trade.
The parent should also have powers of attorney and advance health care directives to appoint persons to manager his or her affairs in the event of incapacity.
If the person has minor children, a guardian should be designated in his or her Will. If there is another parent active in the child’s life, the usual first nomination is the other parent. If parents are separated or divorced, they should try to work together, if possible, to create a list of successor guardians for the child so that father doesn’t name one person and wife names a different party. That would be setting the situation up for a legal battle between the two nominees, unless one decided to not accept his or her nomination.
Tragically, many young successful people fail to contemplate their mortality and plan for their loved ones. We certainly hope that she had the foresight to create a plan to care for her young son in the event of her passing.
Our estate planning attorneys at Sandoval Legacy Group can help you learn more about how a Will and Trust can help your family avoid legal quagmires resulting from unexpected death.