The sudden passing of any loved one is difficult, but when legal complications arise, grief can turn into frustration. This was the case for Allison Holker, wife of the late Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who died without having prepared any estate planning documents.
Allison was forced to go to court just to access assets that were rightfully hers. The lengthy legal process delayed her access to funds when she needed them most. This situation highlights why estate planning is so critical. With proper planning, your loved ones can avoid legal hassles and honor your final wishes smoothly.
Who was Stephen “tWitch” Boss?
Stephen “tWitch” Boss was a famous dancer, actor, and TV personality known for his talents on shows like So You Think You Can Dance and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Tragically, at age 40, Stephen took his own life, leaving behind his wife Allison and three young children.
His shocking death sparked legal chaos due to one simple fact: Stephen had no will or trust established. Without these documents clearly stating his wishes, the fate of Stephen’s assets was thrown into disarray.
Allison Holker was forced to go to court.
With no direction on how Stephen wanted his assets distributed, Allison had to take legal action just to access funds needed for day-to-day living expenses.
She filed a petition in court, asking to be granted rights to Stephen’s assets as his spouse under California law. While the court ultimately approved her petition, the public process caused emotional stress during an already devastating time.
Allison was also forced to wait months for the court proceedings to play out before gaining full access to Stephen’s accounts and property. This delay can cause serious financial issues for grieving families.
The Problems of Dying Without an Estate Plan
- The court controls everything. With no estate plan, state law dictates who gets what assets through a long probate process. This strips control from you and hands it over to the court.
- Delays accessing money. Surviving family members often face waits of several months or longer before the court approves asset distribution. This can leave loved ones unable to pay for expenses.
- Public information. Wills and details of assets become public records when probated through the courts. This exposes private financial information.
- Potential family disputes. With no clear instructions, conflicts can arise between grieving family members over how to divide assets fairly. This adds family tension to an already painful time.
Benefits of Creating a Revocable Living Trust
Creating a proper estate plan with a revocable living trust avoids many of the issues that Allison faced. Here are some key benefits:
- Avoids probate court. Assets placed in the trust can be distributed privately per your written instructions, skipping the courts entirely.
- Provides immediate access to funds. Named beneficiaries gain swift access to assets, allowing them to cover costs right away.
- Preserves privacy. Trusts are not public documents like wills in probate court, keeping asset details private.
- Reduces family disputes. With clear, legal instructions in place, there is less room for infighting over how to divide your assets.
- Allows you to control distribution. A trust ensures your assets go where you want them to go, not where the court mandates.
Seek legal expertise for your estate plan.
While estate planning may seem straightforward, the legal details matter greatly. Consulting an attorney experienced in estate law is highly recommended when creating your plan.
Here are some key reasons why legal guidance is so crucial:
- Laws differ by state; what works in one state may not work in another. Local lawyers know the laws where you live.
- Estate plans made without proper legal advice often contain flaws that only surface after death. This can lead to complications and disputes.
- Lawyers keep your plan updated if laws change. An out-of-date plan risks running into legal issues later on.
- Personalized guidance allows customized solutions for your unique family situation. No two families are the same.
Hold a family estate planning session.
Sitting down with loved ones and your lawyer for a family estate planning session allows you to share your intentions and create a coordinated plan.
Key discussion topics include:
- Your health and potential decline – Share your medical concerns and wishes for dealing with possible incapacity.
- Guardians for minor children: Select guardians you trust to care for kids if tragedy occurs.
- Funeral/burial preferences: communicate how you wish to be laid to rest. This helps avoid difficult family debates.
- Distribution of specific assets: Explain who gets the family home, jewelry, heirlooms, and other assets. This prevents disputes.
- Estate documents: review wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other key documents when completed. This allows loved ones to understand the plan.
Consequences of Having No Estate Plan
Failing to create an estate plan can have devastating emotional and financial consequences for families. Without legal documentation in place, you risk:
- Court delays tie up money needed for bills and expenses.
- Public disclosure of private financial records through probate
- Losing the ability to choose who inherits your assets
- Infighting between grieving loved ones over your property
- Assets going to estranged family members you are not in contact with
- Having minor children taken into guardianship against your wishes by a judge
By working with a lawyer to create estate planning documents that are appropriate for your particular situation, you can avoid these consequences. The relatively small time and money investment is well worth the peace of mind it provides both you and your family.
Take action to protect your loved ones.
Stephen “tWitch” Boss’s untimely death serves as a reminder that tragedy can strike at any time. Although difficult to think about, imagining your own passing is a necessary step to taking action and implementing an estate plan. Don’t leave your family unprotected. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer, and sleep better at night knowing your affairs are in order.