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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Friday, August 3, 2018

Leaving Behind Unique Assets Requires Proactive Estate Planning

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide left many of us shaken to the core. It is shockingly sad that someone so gifted, who seemed to have such a thirst for life, would want to give his up. His estate plan reflects what we as a public knew about him, and is a perfect example of why everyone should work with an experienced attorney to craft a customized estate plan rather than buying the legal equivalent of a fast food burger from an online, DIY site.

Like most people who want to preserve their privacy, or have a substantial estate, or who want to ensure the legal issues they leave their loved ones to deal with are minimal, Bourdain’s estate plan incorporates a trust. The bulk of Bourdain’s estate will almost certainly be distributed via trust.

But not all of Bourdain’s assets were poured into his trust for distribution. The first thing that popped out at us when we started seeing articles about Bourdain’s estate plan was how much info his will revealed about him.

Public court records reveal that he left behind $425,000 in “cash and savings,” $35,000 in a brokerage account, $250,000 in “personal property,” and $500,000 in “intangible property including royalties and residuals.” The bulk of this will go to his 11-year-old daughter Ariane. Because she is underage, Ariane’s inheritance will be managed by her mother, Bourdain’s estranged but not divorced wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain. Ottavia is also named as the executor of Bourdain’s estate.

Bourdain also used his will to pass on something that is a unique reminder of the type of person he was - his frequent flyer miles. He left them to Ottavia to “dispose of [them] in accordance with what [she] believes to have been my wishes.” Given the amount of travel Bourdain did, this could be a substantial asset. But it is also emblematic of the type of person he seemed to be to those of us watching from afar - one who recognized the value of things in life that many of us overlook.

If you suddenly realized you have reward points that could be passed on to a loved one you are not alone.  This website has a great round-up of how various airlines and hotel chains treat the transfer of points after the traveler’s death. As the site notes, rules are made to be broken, so even if a company’s rewards program says after-death transfers are not allowed, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

The key to including unusual assets like reward points or intellectual property in an estate plan is thinking ahead. Out-of-the-ordinary items with potential value must first be identified, then any contracts governing them need to be looked over, and a plan developed from there. Oftentimes unusual assets can be transferred outside of the will. As a backup, it is a good idea to name someone to take possession of the asset, and direct how it is to be used. That way, if a third party needs legal proof of the deceased person’s intent, they have it.

Bourdain taught us many lessons over the years about being curious, and adventurous, and appreciating the small things in life. His will left us with a final reminder to squeeze every last drop out of the life we live.


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