Paul Walker Leaves $25 million Inheritance to Daughter

Tragically on 30 November 2013 Paul William Walker IV (“Paul”) died in a single-car crash.  The Coroner’s report stated the car, a Porsche Carrera GT, driven by friend Roger Roadas was travelling at 160km/h (in a 72km/h zone) before he lost control and connected with a concrete lamppost and two trees. Both parties were killed instantly. Paul was 40 years old.

Most of you familiar with Paul’s acting career would be aware of his rise to stardom in the racing action franchise movies Fast & Furious. Paul died during the filming of the seventh instalment, Furious 7. With the assistance of his brother Cody Walker, production crew completed the film which was released in Australian cinemas recently on April 3, 2015.

While Paul’s legacy to the public will be the Fast & Furious movies, his legacy to his daughter was a trust entitling her to his entire Estate valued at US$25 million. Since Paul’s death the media have reported conflict amongst his family resulting from Paul’s decision. Any conflict among Paul’s family is understandable, given his Will leaves nothing to his partner of 7 years. His Will further appoints his mother as guardian of his daughter as opposed to her biological mother.

While you cannot always believe what you hear reported in the media, what you can believe are the following 3 Estate planning lessons:

  1. You are never too early to consider planning your Estate

Paul was aged 28 when he made his Will, too young in the eyes of many to have considered planning for his Estate. The reality is however that there is no crystal ball to know what the future holds. By having created a Will, Paul was able to save his family from the burden of making an application to the court to divide his Estate according to the rules of intestacy.

Further, you do not need to wait until you have substantial assets before making a Will. Paul made his Will in 2001, the same year the first Fast & Furious movie was released and therefore prior to becoming an international movie star and presumably making his net worth.

  1. The importance of updating your Will

Paul’s Will was made 12 years prior to his passing and therefore did not consider his partner of 7 years. The important lesson here is the value in updating your Will when your circumstances change.

Under the Australian legal system, Paul has an obligation to provide for his partner as well as his daughter.  Paul’s partner would have standing to bring an application to contest the terms of his Will on the basis adequate provision has not been provided for her continued welfare.  Failing to consider a spouse, child or financial dependent in your Will can place on your loved ones the burden, stress and expense of lengthy court proceedings in order to see the Estate adequately divided.

  1. Appointment of a guardian

The position in Australia is that any nomination in your Will of a guardian for your child will not be binding on your death. If there is a surviving biological parent, they will become the sole legal guardian of any minor children.

It was however appropriate for Paul to nominate his mother as it demonstrates his desire in the event that his daughter’s mother was unable or unwilling to care for his daughter. If this did occur, the nominated carer (his mother) would be required to make an application to the court to be appointed as the child’s legal guardian. The court can have regard to the wishes of a deceased parent but would ultimately make a determination based on the best interests of the child at that time.

For advice on wills and estate planning for your specific circumstances, we encourage you to contact our commercial lawyers at McLaughlins Lawyers for assistance.