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It was February 27th when Fox announced that the beloved 90s television hit, Beverly Hills, 90210, was picked up for a reunion series of six episodes. It came as a shock when, a week later, star Luke Perry, largely known for his portrayal of teen heart-throb Dylan McKay, passed away at the young age of 52. Perry suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalized under heavy sedation. Following a second stroke, and it becoming apparent that Perry would not recover, his family made the decision to remove life support. That Perry appeared healthy and vibrant less than a week earlier and died from a condition that many believe only inflicts the elderly, is a reminder of our own mortality.
It appears that Perry adhered to the preaching of Elder Law and Estate Planning attorney’s everywhere: planning and advance directives are crucial legal documents that everyone should have. That Perry’s family had the ability to end life support meant the Luke Perry likely had executed the proper legal documents, such as a Living Will, so that his family could make that difficult decision based on his wishes. Without the proper legal documents, Luke Perry’s family would have most likely needed to petition the proper court for an order to terminate life support—which would have been a public and emotional process that could have prolonged Perry’s suffering.
After suffering a cancer scare in 2015, Luke Perry reportedly had a will drafted and executed, thereby leaving all of his assets to his two children, 21-year-old son, Jack, and 18-year-old daughter, Sophie, and protecting their inheritance. Sources close to Perry informed the media that he no longer wanted to “leave anything to chance.” If Perry had the same forethought with his assets as he apparently did with his advance directives, it is likely that Perry, who had a reported net worth of around $10 million, created a living trust in addition to his reported will. By transferring his assets into a living trust, Perry would help his family avoid the need to probate his will and have his estate pass through the (public) probate court. All of this planning will likely make the process of transferring and distributing his estate much easier and timely.
A question that remains is whether Luke Perry provided any bequests or assets for his fiancé. Because Perry passed away before marriage, his fiancé is not “entitled” to inherit anything by law. Assuming that Perry did not include his fiancé in his 2015 will, she would only stand to inherit those assets that Perry would have had her as a joint owner or beneficiary. It is possible that Perry never intended for his fiancé to inherit a share of his wealth, but if he did it may have been prudent for him to have executed an updated will, trust, or codicil.
Luke Perry’s shocking and tragic passing highlights an important lesson: that no one should wait until they reach an arbitrary “old” age to conduct their estate planning.