Kobe Bryant’s Untimely Death Highlights the Vital Need for an Estate Plan at All Ages.
You have likely already heard that on January 26, 2020, basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles, California. Also killed in the tragic accident was his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers, who were friends and colleagues of Kobe and his family. The exact cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Whenever someone so beloved dies so young, it highlights just how critical it is for every adult—but especially those with young children—to create an estate plan to ensure their loved ones are properly protected and provided for when they die or in the event of their incapacity.
While it’s too early to know the exact details of Kobe’s estate plan (and he may have planning vehicles in place to keep the public from ever knowing the full details), we can still learn from the issues his family will likely face in the aftermath of his death. We cover these issues in hopes that it will remind you that life is not guaranteed, death can come at any moment, and your loved ones are counting on you to do the right thing for them now.
KOBE’S SPORTS AND BUSINESS EMPIRE
Between his salary and endorsements, Kobe earned an estimated $680 million — and that’s not counting the money he made from his numerous business ventures, licensing rights for his likeness, and extensive venture capital investments. That said, by all estimates, his estate has the potential to be one of the most valuable of any modern athlete.
Given the length of time in the spotlight and complexity of these business ventures, it’s highly unlikely Kobe died without at least some planning in place to protect his assets and his family. And, even if Kobe did have a plan, when someone young, wealthy, and successful passes away unexpectedly, his family and estate will almost certainly face some issues with the titling of the assets or challenges to the estate plans.
For example, due to his wealth, Kobe has likely created trusts and other planning strategies to remove some of his assets from his estate to reduce his federal estate-tax liability. However, because he was so young and still actively involved in numerous business ventures, it’s quite unlikely that all—or even the majority—of his assets had been fully transferred into those protective planning vehicles.
And, seeing that some of the people who died in the accident left family members behind, there is a high likelihood that the families of those killed in the crash will file civil lawsuits against Kobe’s estate – along with the helicopter’s operating company. Regardless of how extensive Kobe’s estate plan is, it’s doubtful that the lawyers who drafted his plan considered the possibility of so many potential wrongful-death lawsuits.
The bottom line: the post-death handling of Kobe’s affairs is surely going to be expensive, prolonged, and complicated. Estate planning is a critical means of ensuring the process goes smoothly.
Why You Need an Estate Plan
Though you almost certainly don’t have a Kobe-size estate to pass on, that makes it even more important for you to handle your estate planning—and get it done right, the first time. Kobe’s family can afford years in court, enormous legal expenses, and a loss of some assets to taxes and lawsuits. Your family, on the other hand, cannot.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.