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Tony Scott: Does Suicide Affect Estate Plans?

Who can forget "Top Gun," when we collectively joined Tom Cruise (and Kenny Loggins) in the "Danger Zone." There were dogfights with MiGs, sing-alongs, and the loss of Goose.

Director Tony Scott's life seemed pretty similar with his love of motorcycles and mountain climbing, and ended too soon with a loss for his family and action-movie lovers. Scott died after jumping from the Vincent Thomas Bridge into the Los Angeles Harbor on Sunday, according to The New York Times. There were suicide notes found in his office and in his car.

This raises the question of whether suicide affects your estate plans.

An estate plan determines what will happen to your assets after you die. It can include a will or, when there are many or complex assets, it can also include a trust or trusts.

A will basically describes the assets a person has and determines who gets which assets. The will goes into effect as soon as the person dies and will be followed as long as the will is valid. To be valid, a will must be written, and the person must be of sound mind when they write it and sign it in the presence of witnesses.

Trusts, on the other hand, are a different kind of legal entity. For example, a person's assets can be held in a living trust while the person is alive and then distributed to beneficiaries upon the person's death. Trusts are effective as soon as an asset is transferred into it.

In both wills and trusts, another person besides the grantor is determined to control the distribution of assets after the grantor's death. It doesn't matter how the person died. Therefore, Tony Scott's estate will not be affected by his suicide.

One open question is whether Scott had life insurance policies as part of his estate plan. If so, there could be issues that arise if there is a suicide exclusion clause in the policy.

Unfortunately for us, the public, we will not get to see a "Top Gun" sequel as Tony Scott has left this world, and left with it his estate plan for his wife and twin children.

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