When a personality as popular and professionally successful as Anthony Bourdain passes, I initially think of how humanity is likely a little worse off without that person around. Shortly thereafter, I usually think “geez, I hope they had a good plan. The fight could be ugly.” Sometimes the fight plays out publicly, and other times, there’s scarcely a word other than the news of the person’s passing.

There is no shortage of articles about what is happening with Anthony Bourdain’s estate. More reputable sources are responsibly reporting on what they know. For instance USA Today discusses what is happening with respect to the will. They can be confident reporting this information because wills must be filed with the court having jurisdiction over the decedent’s estate. This begs the question whether there’s more than the $1.2 million dollars worth of assets disclosed in the probate of Anthony Bourdain’s estate.

How can you tell if there is a trust?

There have been some reports that there is a trust separate from his will. If this is true, then his heirs may receive far more than the probate assets. Anthony Bourdain refuted reports that his net worth was around $16 million. There are many benefits to using a trust. He may have put the bulk of his wealth into a trust to spare his daughter and spouse the scrutiny of the public eye. The effectiveness of a trust is apparent because nobody knows with any certainty the assets that were owned by Anthony Bourdain at the time of his passing. Why does it matter that we’re guessing at what may be in a trust?

Trusts are generally private. This means creditors don’t know what you have, or whether it is worth their while to seek payment. This also means you won’t have the problem Prince had with people coming out of the woodwork claiming to be an heir. The beneficiaries are those named in the trust. Period. If you read our blog on the elective share, you would know that a spouse may be able to access assets of a probate estate. Is the existence of Anthony Bourdain’s trust pure speculation?

There are several signs to look for to determine if there are assets in a trust or other entity owned by a decedent. One fact stands out showing it is likely a trust exists: There is a mortgage in Anthony Bourdain’s name on an undisclosed property. Even when real property is held in a trust or other entity a person will need to personally guarantee the mortgage. So it’s pretty likely there is some entity that owns property on behalf of Anthony Bourdain. It is an encumbered real property, but beyond that all we can do is speculate.

Elective Share

There may be some trouble brewing with respect to Anthony Bourdain’s estate relating to the elective share. The elective share in most states allows the spouse to decide whether to take the share allotted to them under the statute regardless of the estate plan, or to take under the estate plan as written. This is how it works in Florida. Anthony Bourdain was still married to Ottavia Busia, but in a relationship with Asia Argento. This means that Ottavia may have the right to take a percentage of Bourdain’s estate, depending upon state law. Their family dynamic may allow things to proceed peacefully, but the possibility of conflict in this case is easy to see.

Did he use the trust for tax purposes?

Although this is a possibility, it is unlikely. The current federal estate tax exemption is $11 million per person. If you’re married and you elect portability, you may use your deceased spouse’s exemption. This lets married couples give away $22 million without having to pay estate taxes. It’s possible that’s why Bourdain and Busia remained married. This type of estate plan puts a lot of faith in someone unless you’ve gotten all the necessary waivers in place. For example a waiver of the spousal elective share and a waiver of the homestead with respect to spousal rights could help limit the spouse’s rights. At this time, there is no information available showing that Bourdain used any waivers.

What does this mean for me and my estate?

For most people, a trust will have the benefit of avoiding the cost and delay of probate. You can benefit from many of the techniques used by super rich folks. The cost of planning is almost always significantly less expensive than the cost of probate.

You should also listen to the professionals when it comes to estate planning and probate; trying to do it yourself is a bad idea. Sometimes we have to spend a great deal of time explaining how a will and trust are different. In some cases, a will is better. In other cases, a trust is the way to go.

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Whether you need a will or a trust, and what documents should accompany those are important decisions. Contact us today to set up a time for a free 30 minute consultation regarding your estate, and what plan will work for you.

Remember, nothing in our blog posts should be considered legal advice, and do not form an attorney-client relationship with our firm. You should always consult with an attorney before drafting or executing any document that will affect your rights.

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