An estate planning lesson learned by Kirk Douglas’ passing
Hi, it’s Guy DiMartino. I’m in Northwest Indiana state planning lawyer. You know, yesterday my phone was blowing up with social media posts about Kirk Douglas’ death. They all had this clickbait. It said Kirk Douglas died. He had a $61 million estate. Guess where his money went? And guess how much Michael is getting? To me it was interesting because it’s in my field so I decided to click. The post said that Kirk had a $61 million estate. He was very much into charities and things along those lines. So he went ahead and gave about 50 some odd million dollars to charities. And then the articles say, well, he didn’t give Michael anything. But then at the bottom of the article, it says that Michael has an estate worth $300 million, so five times worth more than Kirk’s estate.
The insinuation in reading the articles is that Kirk did something that was probably nefarious by not leaving Michael any dough. This brings up something that I speak to folks about all the time, when they discuss their estate and leaving money to their kids. The truth is you don’t have to give your kids money.
In this case, Kirk wanted to give money to charities and things that he believed in Maybe it was for some folks who really needed the money. If Kirk left money to Michael, how would it impact Michael’s life? Would his $300 million dollar estate be worth $310 million dollars? What would this money do for Michael? Many people equate love with money. There was nothing wrong in my view with Kirk saying, look Michael, you’re set. You’ve got a $300 million estate or whatever it was reported at it in a tabloid. You know, you don’t need any more money. So if I go and give you my money, later on it’s going to go by your wishes, not my wishes.
Not to this extent, but this happens a lot of times when I’m meeting folks who have a number of children and one or more of the children may be doing really well and others may not be doing well. The parents will sometimes struggle because they love all their children and want to be to be fair. Sometimes these folks need approval to give one or more children a higher percentage of their estate. The message is that you can do whatever you want, and leave your assets to your kids or grandkids in any proportion that you want. There’s no rule. There’s no law.
You can have your estate distributed any way that you desire. More power to Kirk Douglas for giving the money to charity if that’s what he believed in, because there was nothing that money was going to do to add to Michael’s life. So maybe you’ve seen these articles out there and maybe you clicked on at the see what was going on, but they clearly insinuated that there was something to wrong going on. And in my view, there was nothing wrong with Kirk’s decision.