Phillip Seymour Hoffman Left Nothing To His Kids Because He Wanted To Be A Great Dad

"A Most Wanted Man" Portraits - 2014 Sundance Film FestivalPhillip Seymour Hoffman did not leave any money to his children in his will. He repeatedly rejected recommendations from his accountant that he set up trust funds for his kids. He “did not want his children to be considered ‘trust fund’ kids,” court documents reveal. I think that’s the mark of a good parent – one who understands how important it is to work for things in this life and not have everything handed to you. I think it’s obvious Hoffman wanted to be a great father.

His estate was instead left to his partner and the mother of his children, Marianne O’Donnell, Hoffman believed she would “take care of the children,” his accountant recalled. He also expressed the desire that his son, Cooper, would be raised in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago – so that his son would be “exposed to the culture, arts and architecture that such cities offer.” Yes – Hoffman wanted to be a great dad. Whether he succeed or not is up for debate.

Hoffman died of an accidental drug overdose in February at the age of 46. I’m fully aware that addiction is a disease, I just think it’s one that only certain members of society get a pass at having. Hoffman was wealthy, famous – and definitely one of those people who got that “pass.” So often I write about mothers or fathers in desperate situations – broke, addicted and continually making bad parenting decisions. We don’t have as much sympathy for these people as a whole – we just don’t.

I think when you look at a person like Hoffman, you can refer to his body of work and accomplishments to allow him to not just be defined by his addiction – the thing that ultimately ended is life and robbed his children of their father. I think it’s easy to be less forgiving of the parents we see in the news everyday, making one wrong decision after the next. It’s why I’m always so thrilled to hear anyone’s tale of victory over a drug – no matter how dark a place they went with it.

I personally love Phillip Seymour Hoffman and totally respect his work. I also respect that he was trying his best to be a good father while he battled a dark, consuming addiction. It’s just my hope that I remember that people who are in darker places with less money and glory deserve to not be defined by their addictions as well.

(photo: Getty Images)

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    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      Hoffmann was sober for 23 years before he relapsed. Addiction is evil and it is permanent. You can manage it, but you can never forget it. I’m glad Hoffmann made the decision he made in regards to his kids. Knowing they are the children of an addict, allowing them uncontrolled access to that kind of money at a certain age could lead them down a dark path indeed. Never mind the spoiled asshole disease rich kids can get.

      • Maria Guido

        I totally agree.

    • Ursi

      I have nothing but love and respect for him. Was watching Happiness the other day and I nearly teared up at the scenes he was in. I miss him.

    • Ellefont

      I can totally understand leaving his money to the mother of his kids, rather than the kids themselves. Good idea. However, since he never married the mother of his three children, despite their many years together, he effectively gave away half his estate to the IRS when he died with her as the non-spousal sole beneficiary of his estate. I can see why his accountant was pissed. There are so many ways he could have avoided creating spoiled trust fund kids but given his money people or things he liked more than the feds. For one, he could have created a trust for his kids that gave their mom discretion to pay for their housing and education and support but that terminated on their 25th birthdays and gave the rest of the money to the World Wildlife Fund (if he was an animal lover) or whatever. Poor children. Rain forests. I’m simplifying the structure, but the result would be no spoiled rich kids, no tax bill.

      He let his distaste for rich spoiled kids get in the way of actually accomplishing his goals. But hey, I’m just a lawyer who feels like we failed him as a profession when the government takes half his money.

      • Kelly

        That’s a really good point. I wonder if anyone explained it to him that way.

      • Kelly

        I’m sure it was explained to him, because he probably didn’t pick a lawyer from the phone book or something. It’s hard for anyone to say what the financial details are, but let’s say that he DID just give a huge chunk of his estate to the government. I don’t think his partner or the kids will be hurting for cash–he will have a sizable estate to provide for them.

        Also, some people are okay with paying taxes. (I recognize that sounds snarky, but it’s really not intended to be. Some people aren’t actively seeking a way out of that situation…)

      • Lisa Walker

        I don’t understand why the IRS would get half of his estate even though he named his girlfriend…because she wasn’t his wife? She was still named in the will.

        I’m Canadian so in the tax mans eyes here, you’re a common law spouse as soon as you’ve lived together 12 months or immediately common law spouses if you have a child and live together. Not sure how the wills work though.

      • Ellefont

        Random lawyer back! It’s very hard to become a common law spouse in the few U.S. jurisdictions that recognize the rule. In most of them, you have to have tried and somehow failed to get married or have otherwise told the world that you are or want to be married.

        The IRS taxes estate transfers to most people other than actual spouses or charities at, I think, 50% over the exemption, which has ranged between $0 and $5 million in recent years.

        It’s not evading taxes if you plan your estate in a way that minimizes estate tax. The estate tax rate is one of the highest in U.S. law because the government has set up the incentive to do something else with your money besides leave it in one lump sum to your girlfriend- say, setting up a foundation to pursue your personal charitable goals, or create a trust for the support of your dependents while they are minors.

      • Obladi Oblada

        Tennessee recognizes common law but it takes something like 9 years. It’s hard to get.

    • Kelly

      This might sound nit picky but I think there’s a difference between leaving your children nothing and leaving your money to another parent of those children who you know will act in their best interests.

      • carrie thompson

        Yup. “Leaving the children nothing” implies that they are heading to the poor house; leaving everything to the children’s mother means that, for the most part, they will have access to the lifestyle that they currently have.

      • Mockingjay

        And will most likely inherit it regardless.

    • Mockingjay

      I think people like Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr get a “pass” because they were sober for YEARS. Also if people are going to judge they will regardless of them being rich and famous or not. Personally I don’t think it’s our place to give them any “pass” because it’s not our business to judge.

    • 2Well

      At least he left it to their mother who most likely will make sure their needs are taken care of.

      Hypothetically, if this was their stepmother, I’d say he was a fool for trusting her to care for his children, because the cases I’ve read about stepfamily beneficiaries aren’t pretty.

    • KaeTay

      You know I would of done things a bit differently. I would have made a trust fund for my kid, not a HUUGE one but enough. I would have left some for college and made it where they had to obtain a bachelor’s degree in order to get the trust fund and even then it would only give them so much a year until a certain age..

      (but it’s still great that he left the money to the mother of his children.. they’ll be taken care of)

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    • otterpopmama

      my father and grandfather both created trust funds for me. however, the one from my grandfather i didn’t get until i was 25, and the one from my father i will not have access to until i’m in my early 30s.
      i think their method is an elegant solution to avoiding the ‘trust fund brat’ stereotype/reality that many kids who end up with money embody.
      and i will add that most of what my grandfather left me i am investing/saving for my daughter so that she can have a little nest egg for college/house/etc. and maybe it’s just me, but personally, i would want to have it spelled out loud and clear legally that money i left was specifically to be used for my children. after all…everyone is fallible. but that’s just me.