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The Government Is Getting the Lion’s Share of Chadwick Boseman’s Estate, Leaving His Widow and Parents to Split $2.3 Million. How Not to Have This Happen to You.

Almost two years after the death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor’s family will evenly divide his fortune. Boseman, who died of colon cancer in 2020, did not leave a will. 

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: (L-R) Chadwick Boseman and Taylor Simone Ledward attend the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Boseman, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” began his career in theater before transitioning to film. Roles in movies such as “Black Panther,” “42,” “Marshall,” and “Get On Up” solidified his position as a sought-after actor in Hollywood.

When he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, Boseman continued to work until his death in August 2020. He married Taylor Simone Ledward privately in 2020. Soon after his death, Ledward was appointed a personal representative of Boseman’s estate with limited authority. 

On June 23, the actor’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward who oversees Boseman’s estate, petitioned the court to equally distribute the funds between her and Boseman’s parents, Leroy and Carolyn. 

Shadow and Act reported last week that Boseman’s estate is valued at $3.8 million. However, because Boseman did not have a will, the estate will pay higher legal fees. In addition, the estate must settle court fees, taxes, attorney fees, and funeral costs.  

Once these expenses have been paid, the estate will be valued at $2.3 million. 

Everyone Needs Estate Planning 

While Boseman’s widow and family have reached a reasonable agreement, not possessing a will can present a source of conflict. For example, the estate of hip-hop artist DMX is embroiled in a lengthy battle that includes at least 14 children, an estate valued at $1 million plus future royalties from music used. 

DMX and Boseman are not alone. A survey conducted by Care.com found that an estimated 29 percent of Black Americans have created a will or estate planning document. And although that number has risen in recent years, this data reveals that Black Americans — rich or working class — simply are not managing their estates with care.

“Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It is for everyone that possesses assets and wants to pass on to their children,” Chiquita Rice, a financial advisor with Monarch Investment Advisers, told Finurah. “Anyone with assets such as a home, jewelry and anything of value that you’d like to leave needs a plan.” 

Sheila Samuels, estate planning attorney with Samuels Law Firm, agrees with Rice, adding that everyone needs a will, living will, healthcare proxy, and a durable power of attorney to protect assets. 

 “With an estate plan, you will possess control over your affairs,” Samuels said. “You will leave a legacy for whoever you choose, creating generational wealth.” 

But simply having a last will does not avoid probate. A will must go through probate, which means the will is filed with the court and a personal representative is appointed.

“A will is not helpful in avoiding taxes. Individuals can retitle in the name of the trust to avoid probate which can avoid the expensive process,” says Rice.

Wills versus Trusts

It’s unsure if he had a Trust, but generally it’s more beneficial for heirs.

“In general, a trust is better to have in place than a will. A trust avoids probate, and if written correctly clearly spells out your wishes for your assets,” explains Rice.  “In general, a will has more downsides than a trust.” 

Wills can be more complex, notes Rice, as there has to be an executor, they must go to probate, and they also can be contested.

Trust, however, avoid probate and are not a public record, unlike wills. Trusts, says Rice, are also difficult to contest.

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