Hindsight is 20/20, even for Kobe Bryant

In a previous post, The Estate of Kobe Bryant, we discussed some of the potential challenges facing Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, as the likely heir of Kobe’s sizable estate. Recent court filings have revealed some of the details of Kobe’s estate plan, including one major flaw.

In March, the co-trustees of Kobe’s trust (his wife, Vanessa, and his former agent, Robert Pelinka, Jr.) petitioned a California court to amend the terms of Kobe’s trust to add Kobe and Vanessa’s youngest daughter, Capri Bryant, as a beneficiary. The trust, which was originally created by Kobe in 2003, was amended in 2011 and 2017 to add his and Vanessa’s first three daughters, Gianna (now deceased), Natalia, and Bianka Bryant, as beneficiaries.

Kobe and Vanessa failed, however, to update the trust subsequent to Capri’s birth in 2019, and the trust did not include an “afterborn children” provision (stating that any additional children born to Kobe and Vanessa would be included as beneficiaries of the trust). As a result, the trust provides for distributions of income and principal to provide for Vanessa, Natalia, and Bianka’s support, maintenance, and care during Vanessa’s lifetime. Upon Vanessa’s death, the remaining balance of the trust will be divided into equal separate shares for Natalia and Bianka only.

The petition filed by Vanessa and Mr. Pelinka therefore requests that the Court add Capri as an equal beneficiary of the trust. Under California law, a court may amend the terms of a trust if the requested modification is consistent with a material purpose of the trust. In this case, the court is likely to find that Kobe intended to provide equally for all of his children and amend the trust as requested. From Vanessa’s standpoint, however, the fact that the petition was necessary in the first place is an unwanted complication in the midst of an undoubtedly difficult time.

Ultimately, this story demonstrates that even celebrities fail to update their estate plans after significant life events, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. It is important to periodically review any existing estate plan, considering changes not only in financial and personal circumstances, but also in applicable federal or state law. Just how often to review an estate plan depends, of course, on both the estate plan itself and the nature of the circumstances that have changed.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact Lin Law LLC at (920) 393-1190.

Posted in Estate Planning.