What Can We Learn From Chadwick Boseman?

Nearly two years after his passing in 2020, Chadwick Boseman’s $3.8M estate is going to be distributed to his beneficiaries.  The Black Panther actor did not establish a last will or trust and was survived by his wife (of a couple of months) and parents.   The wife and parents reached an amicable agreement that mirrored the California intestacy (no last will) rules, where his estate would be divided between his parents and his surviving wife.  But…. not before administration and attorney fees kick in.  What was a $3.8M estate has been reduced by nearly $900K to a $2.5M estate to be divided in half.  One half the wife and one half to the parents.

So, what can we learn from this pricy probate?

Firstly, the laws of intestacy of Florida would never have the surviving spouse split the estate with the parents.  No sir/ma’am!  In the Sunshine State, the spouse would inherit the whole kit and caboodle.  The only splitting may be with a child (or children) from a previous partner, if there were any.   

But that’s not all we can learn.  We can also learn the price of a probate.  Without proper planning, an estate may need to be probated.  Remember, the last will won’t avoid probate, it only tells the Judge what to do.  Once in probate, we subject the estate to creditor claims, attorney fees, Court costs, accounting fees, publications and notices.  The price of probate can be much more than the simple $500 or so it costs to open the probate. 

It looks as though the attorney fees in the Boseman estate took the time to work out a comprehensive settlement agreement that avoided a contested probate, and it appears that their fees were reflected in that $900K reduction of estate assets. 

While I’m an attorney that prefers to work with flat rates, that way everyone knows what they’re getting into, not all attorneys are created equal.  Attorneys in Florida can (and usually) charge a percentage of the estate’s value.  I find it a bit distasteful as the work is essentially the same regardless of the size of the estate.  But here’s the sliding scale found in the statute.

  • For estates having a value in excess of $100,000, at the rate of 3% on the next $900,000.
  • At the rate of 2.5% for all above $1 million and not exceeding $3 million.
  • At the rate of 2% for all above $3 million and not exceeding $5 million.
  • At the rate of 1.5% for all above $5 million and not exceeding $10 million.
  • At the rate of 1% for all above $10 million.

So there you have it, we spend a little bit of time, energy and money now to save quite a bit of time, energy and money later.  An estate plan not only attempts to avoid bickering, it also saves costly attorney fees.

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With over 50 years of combined experience, our probate, estate planning, real estate, elder law and asset protection attorneys provide peace of mind for our clients throughout South Florida.

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