As many Star Trek fans may already know, 27 year old actor Anton Yelchin, known as “ Chekov” to fans, died in a freak car accident on June 19th when he was crushed by his Jeep Cherokee in the driveway of his Studio City home. Last Friday, Court records revealed he had no will or trust.
His latest film, “Star Trek Beyond” has grossed more than $106 million in the first two weekends since it opened.
His parents, Victor and Irina Yelchin, filed to become administrators of their son’s estate in Los Angeles Superior Court. Court records indicate that Yelchin’s assets included $731,000 in equity in his home and $641,000 in personal property.
According to the attorney who represents Yelchin’s parents, a wrongful death suit will be filed against Fiat Chrysler, who made the Jeep Grand Cherokee that was responsible for their son’s death.
The thought of estate planning crosses the mind of very few young people, even those worth millions, like Mr. Yelchin. Tragedies such as his are rare, and thus it makes sense that he had no Will or Trust in place. However, because he did not have Estate Planning documents, a sizable chunk of his assets will now go to attorneys. In addition to suffering the loss of their son, his parents will also have the added burden of sorting out his estate.
What does the Probate Process look like for someone with no Will, no spouse, and no children? And who does everything go to?
With no legal spouse and no children, California Probate code states that all assets will be inherited by one's parents. Therefore, in Anton Yelchin's case, his parents, Victor and Irina, are entitled to his estate.
The Probate Process begins with a person in an appropriate position (such as the parents) hiring an attorney and filing a petition to be appointed Administrator of the Estate. This is exactly what Anton's parents did last Friday. The court will set a hearing, and if all goes smoothly, appoint them as administrators. If granted, the court will grant the administrators "Letters of Administration," which effectively gives them the legal right to take care of all aspects of the estate. In Anton's case, his parents will likely become the administrators, and they will also be the beneficiaries. In the infamous probate of Prince's estate, the administrator is a Bank, and the beneficiaries are his siblings.
In California, the attorney for the Probate is entitled to a statutory fee, or percentage of the estate, plus any "extraordinary" fees that go above and beyond the normal duties of probating an estate. Examples of extraordinary fees include an attorney's assistance with the sale of property. In Mr. Yelchin's case, it appears he has at least one property. While the court states he has $731,000 in equity in his home, the percentage that goes to the attorney is based of the total value of the home. Likewise, the statutory fee is based on the value of all other assets within the estate. While the court reports indicate Mr. Yelchin had only $641,000 in personal property, it is likely he is worth more due to his short but very successful acting career. Dealing with royalties and other future profits that are likely to occur on Mr. Yelchin's behalf, his parents will have the added complication and cost of how to deal with this income. It should be noted that the Administrator of an Estate is also entitled to a statutory fee equal to the attorney's. However, in this situation, the Administrators and the beneficiary are one and the same.
Once the attorney and the Administrator(s) resolve issues relating to noticing creditors, paying creditors, selling real property, and resolving any litigation that may arise, a petition is presented to the court to close the estate. Upon the court's approval, the assets of the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
If Mr. Yelchin had been given more time, he would have benefited from setting up a trust. This would keep his estate, his net worth, and other private information out of the public eye. Attorney fees would be greatly reduced, and the entire process could be handled outside of the courts in a swift and efficient manner. As it is, a probate in California generally takes a minimum of 6 months, with most taking at least a year. Our hearts go out to his parents, family, and friends as they deal with this great tragedy.
For questions about Probate, Trusts, or Estate Planning, Contact my Walnut Creek Estate Planning and Probate firm at 925-322-1795 for your consultation.