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An Odd Choice For Anthony Bourdain's Estate Plan

It appears that Anthony Bourdain’s estate plan used what is called a testamentary trust and not a living trust. Investment News is reporting that Mr. Bourdain’s estate will soon be making its way through the probate court of the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court. The story also suggests that Mr. Bourdain never finalized his divorce; which may entitle his estranged wife to a spousal share of his assets.

It is surprising that Mr. Bourdain used a testamentary trust rather than a living trust. Testamentary trusts only become effective upon death, forcing the estate into probate. Once in probate, the estate becomes easily contestable, and court filings become public record. According to court filings, Mr. Bourdain’s estate is considerably smaller than previously estimated.

The decision to use a testamentary trust is surprising because it means that Mr. Bourdain may not have received the best advice about estate planning. If Mr. Bourdain had used a living trust, which would have been effective while Mr. Bourdain was living, his estate could skip the onerous probate process. By using a living revocable trust, grantors of a trust can ensure that their estate remains private and outside of court adjudication.

Every situation is different, so there may have been a reason for the use of a testamentary trust rather than a living trust. But, it certainly seems to be an odd choice. There is always the chance that an unscrupulous attorney may suggest a testamentary trust hoping to gain more fees when they probate the estate.

Planning is not enough. Planning must be done correctly. Planning correctly usually means avoiding do-it-yourself solutions and using an attorney experienced in estate planning.