Image Credit: Peabody Awards
Anthony Bourdain was a celebrity chef who lived on the edge. When he took his own life on June 8, 2018, at the age of 61, he was known worldwide as the original rock star of the culinary world who had written best-selling books, hosted several award-winning television series, and created a reputation as the "culinary bad boy."
According to some reports, Bourdain's net worth as much as $16 million at the time of his death, but only $1.2 million of that was itemized in Probate Court documents. Royalties, residuals, and image rights are not included in any documents, so the actual numbers are unlikely to ever become public.
Despite what appeared to be some serious planning to take care of his family after his death, Bourdain's estate had a few glaring problems. For starters, the divorce from his second wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain with whom he had an 11-year old daughter name Ariane, was never finalized. Ottavia was named the executor of his estate and received his personal effects, books, and frequent flier miles, but she was otherwise excluded from his will.
Bourdain apparently wanted to leave most of his wealth to his daughter, for whom he set up a testamentary trust that is set to distribute assets to her when she turns 25, 30, and 35. Because of the way it was set up, the trust documents became public, and the trust itself is being administered by a court-appointed guardian. Because Bourdain's divorce was never finalized, Ottavia may at some point elect to receive a share of those trust assets.
While there are far worse problems estates can encounter, there were better ways Bourdain could have structured his plan. For example, he could have set up a discretionary trust for his daughter's life that would have given her greater flexibility to receive distributions and possibly shielded her assets from future creditors. That kind of trust, along with other related tools, might have avoided his will going to probate in the first place - something I generally advise all of our clients.
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