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David Bowie's death shines light on trust use in estate planning

After fans in California mourn the deaths of their favorite or most idolized celebrities, they often begin discussing the fate of those celebrities' estates. Unfortunately, most discussions concerning celebrity estate plans circle around the estates' deficiencies and, in some cases, squabbling families left in the throngs of probate. At first glance, it does not appear that David Bowie's recent death will incite any such distress among surviving family members. Most people believe that the singer and actor utilized at least one trust -- although likely more -- to ensure the smooth transition of his estate after his death.

Because of his battle with liver cancer, Bowie might have been intrinsically aware of the need for a tight and coherent estate plan. Although he did manage to record and release one last studio album, his diagnosis was terminal. With his long-time wife Iman and two children left to survive him, he likely understood the importance making sure that they were well cared for. Current reports speculate that Iman will receive the majority of his $200 million estate. His children are also slated to receive significant inheritances.

Estate planning experts have widely speculated that Bowie likely used trusts in his plan. Estate taxes can take a hefty chunk out of a person's estate and remaining assets, and trusts -- both revocable and irrevocable -- are one of the most effective ways to minimize the impact. Another plus for trusts? The passing of assets would be more likely to remain private, something that is often important to those who lived their lives in the limelight.

Those who knew Bowie acknowledge that he had a flair for financial foresight, an excellent -- although not necessary -- attribute for planning the details of an estate. Still, people in California do not have to be able to see into the future to avoid possible issues during the administration of their estate. Keeping an up-to-date will or trust can ensure that all inheritors are listed appropriately and that unnecessary estate taxes are kept at bay.

Source: Forbes, "David Bowie Estate: His Legacy Extends Beyond Music", Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Jan. 14, 2016

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