In January, we reported how the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant (Kobe) and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash demonstrated the vital need for estate planning for people of all ages. At the time, little was known about the planning strategies Kobe had in place to protect and preserve his estimated $600 million estate for his wife, Vanessa, and three surviving daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Since then, court filings made by Kobe’s widow have shed some light. The court documents provide a summary of trust’s terms, though the contents themselves remain private. On the positive side, Kobe created an extensive estate plan, which included the Kobe Bryant Trust to protect his assets, reduce estate-tax liability, and pass on his wealth to his family. Upon Kobe’s death, the trust was set up to allow Vanessa and her daughters to draw from the principal and income of the trust’s assets during Vanessa’s lifetime, with the remainder going to their children upon Vanessa’s death.
However, while the trust lists Vanessa and his oldest daughters Natalia, Gianna (who died in the crash with her father), and Bianka as beneficiaries, his youngest daughter, Capri, who was born just six months before Kobe’s death, was not included in the document. Reportedly, Kobe and his lawyers simply never got around to adding Capri to the trust before his untimely death at age 41.
A tragic oversight
Seeking to fix this oversight, Vanessa Bryant and Kobe’s best friend Robert Pelinka, Jr.—who were named Co-Trustees—petitioned the Los Angeles probate court to modify the trust by adding Capri as a beneficiary with equal rights as her sisters. Unless the court agrees with the petition, Capri will be ineligible to inherit her share of the family estate held in the trust, which could amount to wealth and assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to the petition, the trust was created in 2003 after the birth of the couple’s first child, Natalia, and its intent was to provide for the support of Vanessa and all of the couple’s children following Kobe’s death. As evidence of this intent, the petition points out the fact that Kobe amended the trust to add daughters Gianna and Bianka after they were born.
Although it’s likely the court will agree to the trust’s modification to include Capri, the fact remains that Kobe and his legal team made a major error by not updating his plan immediately following her birth. Because of this mistake, Vanessa has had to pay hefty legal fees and one of the trust’s biggest benefits –privacy—has been almost completely negated. The most unfortunate part of the whole situation is just how easily this oversight could have been avoided.
Stay up to date
Many people believe that estate planning is a one-and-done deal, where you create the documents, store them somewhere safe, and your family dusts them off when you die or become incapacitated. However, Kobe’s story shows just how wrong that belief is. In fact, Kobe did a great job by adding Gianna and Bianka to the trust after they were born. However, waiting so long to amend the trust on Capri’s behalf was an oversight by Kobe’s lawyers that illustrates why most plans—even those created by multi-millionaires—fail to keep families out of court and conflict when it’s too late. Furthermore, while Kobe’s family can easily absorb these legal costs, your family probably can’t without significant impact.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time. Outside of not creating any estate plan at all, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with an outdated plan that no longer works Sadly, by the time they contact us it’s too late to rectify the situation. We recommend you review your plan annually to make sure it’s up to date, and immediately modify your plan following events like births, deaths, divorce, and inheritances.
Mapping your assets
You should also create—and regularly update—an inventory of all your assets, including digital property like cryptocurrency, photos, videos, and social media accounts. By doing this, your family will know what you have and how to find everything if something happens to you and none of your assets will end up in our state’s Department of Unclaimed Property.
We will not only help you create a comprehensive asset inventory, but we’ll also make sure it stays regularly updated throughout your lifetime. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, creating such an inventory is something you should take care of immediately.
We’ve created a (totally FREE) tool called a Personal Resource Map to help you get the inventory process started right now, by yourself, without the need for a lawyer. To learn more, visit PersonalResourceMap.com, which will help you create an inventory of everything you own to ensure your loved one’s know what you have, where it is, and how to access it if something happens to you.
As Kobe’s sad story illustrates, death and illness can strike at any time, and even the most extensive estate plan can fail without the proper systems in place to keep it updated. To ensure your plan works exactly as intended for the ones you love most, contact us, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, today to review and update your current plan, or create one if you have yet to do so.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.