By Dale Gribow

When actor Seymour Hoffman passed away he had not yet updated his estate planning. He had a will and living trust, but signed them before two of his three children were born. This failure to update his estate planning could cause havoc…and a loss of lots of money for the family. The legal question presented is “Who are the Beneficiaries of his $35,000,000 estate?” Had Seymour updated his estate planning he could have avoided a slew of problems that will surface and possibly prevent his two “After Born Children” from getting anything…or at least not what Hoffman would probably have wanted for them.

I opened every one of my legal radio shows and legal columns in local paper with the saying that “People Don’t Plan to Fail, They Fail to Plan.” Hoffman is guilty of the adage—it is just as true for Estate Planning as it is for an Auto Accident or DUI. I always suggest to my friends and clients that they address these potential issues before they arise. Once you have been in an Accident or received a DUI you are stressed and people often do not make wise decisions under those circumstances. So plan now for whom you would call if you or a loved one had an Accident or DUI and keep those names handy so that they are easy to find in an emergency.

Most people are “shocked” when they learn that many of the most famous people in the world died without any estate planning. Would you believe Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, US Chief Justice Warren Burger, Heath Ledger, gold medal winner Flo Jo and our own Sonny Bono died without an estate plan? All of them could easily have afforded the most talented and expensive lawyer in the country. However, they did not plan ahead!


By not updating his estate planning to cover all his children, Hoffman left their grieving mother in a pickle.

At the time he prepared his will he had one child named Cooper. After that he had two “After Born Children” who were both NOT mentioned in the will. A good lawyer could have added a sentence to Hoffman’s estate planning stating “Any reference to Cooper includes children born to me after him”.

Normally that would not be a big issue as Seymour left the money to the mother of his children. However, he had never married her! Thus she does not get any estate tax breaks available to spouses.  The “marital deduction” allows one spouse to give all their money to the surviving spouse with certain limitations, but would not apply with Hoffman.

We have all read that his $35,000,000 estate would NOT qualify for a tax exemption of the first $5.34 Million dollars under federal law and would then also be taxed on the excess…in addition to what NY will tax. Thus, by “Pulling a Seymour” his estate could be reduced by about 50% in taxes. In addition, because he was not married, any money left over could be taxed again.

Seymour Hoffman’s estate plan bears an eerie resemblance to that of Heath Ledger’s. That is not a scenario one should emulate.

Remember, when you drink don’t “pull a Bieber” and get behind the wheel and have an accident or get arrested for a DUI:

Dale Gribow has been “Rated” TOP LAWYER by Palm Springs Life Magazine from 2011-2014 and has a Superb AVVO Legal Rating by his fellow attorneys. Dale Gribow has been Man of the Year 7 times, including the City of Palm Desert and the City of Hope and Dale Gribow Day has been declared 4 times. He is the only attorney appointed in December 2013 to the Coachella Valley Association of Government’s Public Safety Ad Hoc Blue Ribbon Committee addressing Drunk Driving. This group consists of the police chiefs from every city and the mayor of each city as well as the Sheriff of Riverside County and the head of the CHP and Border Patrol. In addition, Gribow is the only attorney asked to be part of the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Matters Committee addressing Drunk Driving. Gribow is also one of the founders of Shutdown Drunk Driving formed upon the death of his client who was killed by a drunk driver while jogging recently.

If you have any questions regarding this column or ideas for future columns, please contact Dale Gribow Attorney at Law at his NEW number 760 837 7500 and or his new email:

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