An Estate-Planning Lesson from Steve Jobs

  By Matthew Jentner
Matthew Jentner

Billionaire Steve Jobs passed away in 2011 after building one of the most successful companies in the history of the world. This private, technology innovator apparently applied his genius not only to technology and to his business but also to his estate. Although Jobs built a net worth of more than $6 billion when he died at age 56, many estate-planning experts forecasted that his estate would not pay a penny in estate tax. Unlike many other celebrities and entrepreneurs, it appears that Steve Jobs carefully pre-planned his estate.

Steve Jobs was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. He was not expected to live beyond 2008. However, this gave him time to reflect on his own mortality and legacy. Jobs applied his foresight and genius to his estate as well as to his business. He consulted with competent, professional estate-planning advisors to make sure his estate ends up exactly where he wanted it to go.

Steve Jobs was a private person. Transferring his assets into various trusts not only avoided the publicity of a court-supervised transfer of his assets but also enabled him to move much of his wealth out of his taxable estate. We know that during life, Jobs controlled a $6.4-billion mountain of stock. What we don’t know is what goals he built into his trusts and who the trustees are now.

It is likely that no one listening today has an estate the size of Steve Jobs. But each of us has the opportunity to plan our legacy if we will take the time to plan. Whether your material legacy will be left to family, friends or charity, we each can seek professional assistance to make sure our estate goes to whom we want it to go to, when we want them to receive it and with a minimum of taxes and expenses. And like Mr. Jobs, if privacy is one of your objectives, this also can be obtained.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you talk to someone about your estate planning, you will jinx yourself and die prematurely. On the contrary, it is likely that with the peace of mind you achieve, you might live longer than you ever imagined.

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