In an interesting twist of events this week, court documents show that the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman left his entire estate to his girlfriend, Mimi O’Donnell. Hoffman died earlier this year at the age of forty-six of a heroin overdose at his home in New York City. He left behind his long-term girlfriend, O’Donnell, and three children. Cooper (ten), Tallulah (seven), and Willa (five) were all children of Hoffman and O’Donnell.
Hoffman’s accountant stated in court documents that he saw Hoffman treating O’Donnell like a spouse and not a girlfriend. Although they had been together for well over a decade, Hoffman never married her because he simply did not believe in marriage. However, he did fully believe that his girlfriend would fully support and take care of their children. O’Donnell was named as one of the executors of his estate which was estimated at around thirty-five million dollars earlier this year. She already held multiple joint financial accounts with Hoffman that held substantial assets when he died.
Reason for Exclusion
Court documents reveal that Hoffman left his entire thirty-five million dollar estate in a trust to his girlfriend, and he completely excluded his children from the estate. According to his accountant, his reasoning was that he did not want his children seen as “trust fund kids.” His accountant recalled conversations with Hoffman a year before his death “where the topic of a trust was raised for the kids and summarily rejected by him.” Hoffman decided to go against his accountant’s repeated suggestions that he provide for his children in his estate plan.
Planning for the Children
Hoffman was more interested in how his children were going to be raised instead of establishing a trust for each of them. In the only will he ever signed back in 2004, his single wish for his son – the only existing child at the time – was that “it is my strong desire [that] my son, Cooper Hoffman, be raised and reside in or near the borough of Manhattan [or] Chicago, Illinois, or San Francisco, California.” The purpose being that he wanted his children to be exposed to the art, culture, and architecture that those cities have to offer.
Potential Pitfalls of the Estate Plan
Hoffman’s estate plan is not typical for someone planning for their children, and there are reasons why this route is not the usual case. By placing the entirety of the estate in a trust for his girlfriend, she has complete control over the assets in the trust. There was no language that mandated that the money be used for the children, so O’Donnell could spend every penny and not get in trouble for it. Additionally, her children have no say over when and how much of the money is spent on their needs. Everything is conditioned on the will and opinion of their mother.
Usually, when a person wants to create an estate plan that takes care of their children they will make a trust that names the kids as beneficiaries. The trust can have age limits, distribution limits, and any other guidelines the parent wants on how the money is given to the children. However, because Hoffman did not want his children to have that kind of access to his estate, every time they need money they will have to get the okay from mom first.