This Common Oversight Cost Chadwick Boseman's Heirs Almost $1 Million
- After years in probate, the late actor's estate will be split evenly by his widow and parents.
- A will directs assets after a person's death, avoiding a costly probate process.
- The actor may have incorrectly assumed that his assets would transfer to his wife.
This one document could have helped his estate avoid probate.
This week it came to light that the late Chadwick Boseman's estate lost nearly a quarter of its value in settlement fees, thanks in large part to one missing document: a will. After the actor's passing, Boseman's assets went through a costly probate process, reducing his estate by nearly $1 million.
Boseman's estate settlement
After losing his battle with colon cancer in 2020, Chadwick Boseman left an estate of nearly $4 million. The only problem? The actor did not establish a will to direct his assets. That common mistake sent his estate into a process called probate, where the state determines who receives what of your assets.
Nearly two years and a $900,000 probate bond later, we finally have an idea of how his assets will be distributed to his surviving heirs. Boseman's widow, Simone Ledward-Boseman, and Boseman's parents will split the estate evenly, with each inheriting $1.15 million.
Why does a will matter?
A Last Will and Testament, or will, is a legal document that directs the assets of a deceased person. When properly prepared and executed, a will ensures that a decedent's wishes are followed when splitting up the estate. When considering why a will is so important, it can be helpful to look at what happens when a deceased person does not have one in place.
As evidenced by the above story, a will can prevent hefty legal fees after death. When a person dies without a will in place, they are deemed to have died "intestate" and their estate goes through a process called probate. The probate process can be incredibly lengthy and incredibly expensive, as assets are distributed through a court proceeding. Each state has different rules when it comes to intestacy, and they are used to guide the court's decisions and ultimately determine where assets end up. The probate process typically lasts between one and two years, and costs between 4% and 7% of the total estate.
A common misconception
It is very likely that Chadwick Boseman fell victim to one of the many misconceptions surrounding estate planning. His marriage to Simone Ledward-Boseman came only one year before his death, so he may have believed his estate was sound in the case of a premature death.
In fact, marriage is not a replacement for a will. Married couples enjoy many perks in the U.S. legal system, including being treated as a family unit in many ways. This does not mean assets automatically transfer to a surviving spouse in the case of death. An intestate death leads to probate regardless of marital status. As seen in Boseman's case, a probate court may then award part or all of the estate to heirs other than the widowed spouse.
Like many Americans today, Chadwick Boseman did not have a properly prepared will when he died tragically in 2020. This common oversight cost his heirs nearly a quarter of his estate and serves as a warning about the dangers of an improperly prepared estate plan.
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