Betty White’s Estate Plan is a Case Study in Good Estate Planning
San Diego, California, USA—While many are still mourning the unexpected and untimely death of actress and comedian Betty White on December 31, 2021, it does appear that she undertook good estate planning before she passed.
Whenever there is a high-profile death involving famous celebrities or other high profile and high net worth individuals, there is usually interest in how much money they are leaving behind and who that money is being left to; in essence, what is being done with their estate.
Similar interest and controversy have occurred with the deaths of famous celebrities including Prince, Bob Saget, Louie Anderson, and Meatloaf—just to name a few.
“The unfortunate aspect of these high-profile celebrity deaths is two-fold. First, the deaths are usually untimely and unexpected. Second, we usually learn that their financial matters were not in order, leading to unnecessary legal costs, lengthy court battles, and ultimately more money going to government taxes rather than their loved ones,” said estate planning attorney Rodney J. (“Rod”) Hatley.
Hatley, who practices tax, estate planning, and asset protection law in San Diego, works with high-net-worth individuals to minimize or eliminate their tax liabilities.
Fortunately, White’s estate plan included a trust that owned her $5 million Brentwood mansion.
“Because Betty White’s home was owned by a trust, it will avoid probate, which is expensive, public, and time-consuming. If Betty had only had a will, or no plan at all, then the probate fees for her home would have been $126,000, or 3% of the value of that asset. Betty received good advice from her estate planning attorney and saved her estate hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“Generally speaking, most individuals should have an estate plan and make sure to keep it updated. In Betty’s case, her estate plan included a trust that owned her home and other assets. Given the size of her estate, reportedly $75 million, I expect that Betty had additional planning. As such, there won’t be any probate and her assets will be distributed to people and causes she cared about,” said Hatley.
White died at age 99, three weeks shy of her 100th birthday. White was dubbed “the first lady of game shows” and earned a Guinness World Record for “longest TV career by an entertainer (female).”
Rodney J. Hatley, Esq., LL.M. (Taxation) is a tax, estate planning, and asset protection attorney in San Diego, CA. He works with high-net-worth individuals and families in planning for the preservation and distribution of their estates.
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