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The One With the Tragic Death ... What Happens to Matthew Perry's Estate?

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

The untimely and tragic death of Friends' star Matthew Perry has raised questions as to what happened. He was found dead from an apparent drowning in the hot tub of his Pacific Palisades home, but toxicology reports have not come back from law enforcement.

There are also questions about what will happen to his estate. Although the late actor was once engaged to Molly Hurwitz, he never married and never had children.

Yet he left behind a significant estate reportedly worth over $120 million. He earned most of his money from 10 seasons on NBC's hit show, “Friends." Even after the show ended, he and his co-stars continued to receive royalties on the sitcom. And he starred in films such as “Fools Rush In" and “17 Again." But he was also a real estate investor, buying and selling homes in Malibu and Hollywood Hills. Recently, he wrote his autobiography, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing."

So, what happens to an estate that large? Well, it depends on whether or not he had a will.

If He Had a Will

With an estate that sizable, it is likely he had a will and/or a will and trust. Unfortunately, many celebrities die without making a will. Perhaps his philanthropic efforts prompted him to make a will. He was an advocate for drug and alcohol recovery, helping people get sober. He even created a sober living home, Perry House, from his beach home in Malibu in 2013.

With a will, not only could he make charitable gifts to his favorite causes, but he could:

  • Appoint someone to manage his estate, called a personal representative or executor
  • Instruct what should happen with Perry's home and his other real estate holdings
  • Give his property to beneficiaries of his choosing
  • Direct what should happen with the royalties from his book, movies, and show

A will simplifies estate administration in probate. If he had a trust with the trust owning his property, he could reduce his probate fees and estate taxes, which are quite high in California.

If He Didn't Have a Will

If he died without making a will, he died intestate. Because of where he resided in California, a Los Angeles County probate court follows state intestacy laws to distribute his estate. Under California law, his estate goes to his surviving parents, John Bennett Perry and Suzanne Morrison. If his parents died before him, then his estate would be split among his siblings.

He has five half-siblings. Four from his mother and stepfather, Keith Morrison. And a sister from his father and stepmother. Half-siblings may inherit an intestate share if they are born or adopted by Matt's mother or father. Step-parents do not inherit from their stepchildren unless they adopt them.

Blended families, such as Perry's family, require special estate planning. Although Perry recalls a close bond with his siblings in his autobiography, many people might not want their half-siblings to share in their estate.

Take Lessons From a Friend

Matthew Perry's death can teach you about how important it is to have a will and estate plan.

If you have significant wealth, you should consult a local estate planning attorney. They can develop a plan for you and determine if trusts are appropriate for your circumstances.

But if you have a simple or modest estate, many people use online legal form service companies to create their will and other estate planning documents.

It doesn't take much to create will. You need to know the following:

  • Who you want to handle your estate
  • Who you want to benefit from your estate
  • Who you want to care for minor children (if needed)
  • Who you want to care for your pets (if needed)

You can update your will anytime to reflect your life circumstances, such as if you marry or have children. You can also change your mind about your personal representative, beneficiaries, or guardians. Having a will simplifies the probate process and gives you and your loved ones peace of mind.

Perry's character, Chandler Bing, famously said "I'm not great at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?" While Chandler may not have been great at advice, Matthew Perry was able to share hard lessons he learned with the public. The benefit of an estate plan is one more.

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