Eeps, Chris Cornell missed a planning opportunity and it's hurting his daughter!
Another day, another celebrity estate plan gone wrong (maybe). Chris Cornell, the musician known for being the frontman of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died over two years ago, but his estate is back in the news because his daughter filed a claim to receive funds from the estate.
When Cornell and his first wife divorced, the decree required him to set up a trust to benefit his daughter, Lily. (This was good thinking on the part of Lily’s mother, as his lack of planning indicates Lily may have been left with nothing otherwise.) Somehow, Cornell’s second wife ended up as the Trustee of Lily’s trust, which was bound to cause some problems. Lily has always been a high academic achiever and earned good grades. She experienced mental health issues in her first year of college, however, and opted to drop out in order to properly get care and treatment. This caused her stepmother/trustee to stop financial support from the trust.
Now, if I had been Cornell’s lawyer, I would have advised him to name a more neutral trustee for Lily’s trust, as well as to lay out liberal guidelines for distributing trust funds. Even when stepparents and stepchildren get along, a parent’s death and the financial situations that follow can unearth all sorts of negative feelings that had long been buried. A gap year from college, medical leave, anything that helps the child to transition to adulthood without unnecessary trauma should all be supportable if the money is there. People really underestimate what toll grief can take on an even an adult child of a parent who dies. Additionally, for the rest of the estate, I would have advised Cornell before his second marriage that he needed to execute a valid prenuptial agreement to keep his assets separate from his wife’s in order to preserve them for the children. I would have advised him to set up his estate so that when he dies, his estate is held in a trust that can support his wife until her death or remarriage, and then is distributed to the children.
Cornell did not execute a plan that took all of these issues into account, and now his daughter must beg the court to force her stepmother to distribute funds, while she should be focusing on her mental health and healing from the grief of losing her father. These court battles over money destroy families, taint legacies, and traumatize those left behind. Your family deserves a better plan.
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To your family's health + happiness,
Candice N. Aiston
P.S. Want to get started slowly but surely, naming guardians for your kids? Check out our Guardian Plan kit.
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Candice N. Aiston is an Legal Planning Attorney for Estates + Businesses in the Portland, Oregon area. She helps people to prepare for a lifetime of security, prosperity, and guidance. If you would like to receive her free reports, please visit http://aistonlaw.com/ to sign up. Follow her Facebook page for daily planning tips: https://www.facebook.com/aistonlaw/.