I did not follow Kobe Bryant’s career during his
lifetime. However, in the wake of his passing in a tragic helicopter accident
along with his 13 year-old daughter Gianna, and 7 other passengers earlier this
year; I have been struck by his legacy and have thus been anxiously waiting to
hear about his estate plan and the arrangements he would have made for his loved
It is reported that Kobe
Bryant established a trust to provide for his 37-year-old widow, Vanessa and
their children. According to Forbes, Bryant died with a net worth of
about $600 million; he was the second-highest-paid NBA player of all time with
career earnings, endorsements and investments. The Trust Deed reportedly states that Natalia and Bianka can
“draw from the principal and income in the trust during Vanessa’s lifetime, and
then her kids get the remainder upon her death.”
Kobe Bryant created the
trust in April 2003, shortly after the birth of his oldest daughter Natalia,
now 17. The Trust Deed was amended several times over
the years including every time the couple had a new baby. He amended it following the birth of his daughter
Gianna, and again in 2017 after the birth of his third daughter Bianka, 3. It thus currently includes their eldest daughter Natalia, the late
Gianna who was killed along with her father, as well as a further revision
effected in 2017 soon after Bianka’s birth. This was the last revision of the
Unfortunately, 41 year-old
Kobe Bryant never got round to updating his estate plan to include his youngest
daughter Capri following her birth in June 2019. Therefore, Capri is not
included in the trust and it is silent with respect to Capri and her future descendants.
issue with not amending the trust is that “the Bryant Trust will be divided
into two shares, and not three” after Vanessa’s demise.
Of course, it is most unlikely that Bryant
deliberately disinherited his last daughter but this unfortunate oversight has
caused his loved ones some stress. In the midst of her grief, Kobe Bryant’s
widow has reportedly requested for a judge to make an amendment to the trust deed
to include their youngest daughter Capri in the trust distribution claiming that
it was always Kobe’s intention to provide financial support for all of his children
upon his death.
Even though making changes to a trust posthumously can be a
challenge, indeed this is one of the advantages of setting up a trust, it is expected that
the judge will approve this request. In complicated circumstances,
such a posthumous amendment could create an argument that the child was
intentionally left out of the will or trust.
Kobe Bryant named Vanessa and his agent as
co-trustees to manage the trust fund and make discretionary payments to the
beneficiaries of the trust. It is important to protect minors to inherit large
sums of money too early.
Bryant also did something else. She appointed guardians for her three children;
a ”Guardian Ad Litem” is a court appointed lawyer for minor children “in case a
parent is unavailable to make decisions on the child’s behalf.” She wanted to
ensure that her own legal affairs were tidied up as soon as possible in light
of “the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic".
There are so
many powerful lessons for us all in this tragic situation. Particularly with our extended family social system and
exceptionally large families, the importance of estate planning cannot be over
emphasized; it is more important than ever to put things in place to protect
your loved ones should anything untoward happen to you. Indeed, the reluctance
to organize one’s estate and legacy is even more apparent in our own
environment where estate planning is often seen as tempting fate or pre-empting
one’s own demise.
But is not enough to put an estate plan in place; just as important
is the need to ensure that the plan is updated to reflect evolving circumstances
throughout one’s lifetime. A marriage, a divorce, new beneficiaries or a
significant change in one’s fortunes are important life events to warrant an
update of an estate plan. Without the periodic review of your estate plan, you run the
risk of disinheriting those whom you love and to whom you intended to bequeath your
If one of your to dos is to review your estate
plan, just do it. Stop procrastinating. Here are some pertinent reasons
Probate avoidance is
one important reason to have a plan in place. With
no estate plan, your family and loved ones may need to go through the
stressful, lengthy and expensive probate process.
Make sure your assets go to whom you want. Without
an estate plan, it is the court that decides who will receive your assets.
Further, if you want some assets to pass to a non-family member, that may not
happen unless it is specified.
Have you nominated a guardian for your minor
children? Don't leave it to someone else to decide who should look after your
minor children should something happen to you. A decision, particularly one
that you can change, is better than no decision at all.
can reduce the risk of a family feud. Making no decisions
regarding what you want to happen to your assets, can lead to long-term family
disharmony and friction. Deal with potential issues now, and leave fond
memories and a lasting legacy and not a devastating family fight in your wake.
Deal with incapacity issues even though they
probably won’t ever be needed. Putting a Power of Attorney and health care
proxy in place along with other estate planning documents will help your loved
ones carry out your wishes in case you ever become incapacitated.
the impact of taxes on your estate. It is so important to plan
ahead as the impact of estate taxes can be devastating to family members who
are often forced to sell properties, even the family home, to pay the bills.
this period of “lockdown” to review your entire financial plan; from your
banking, budgeting, savings, investments, insurance, retirement plan,
philanthropy and estate plan. Make a review of your
estate plan one of your top financial goals.