At the young age of 52, Perry suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalized under heavy sedation. After it was apparent that he would not recover, his family made the decision to remove life support five days later following a reported second stroke. He was surrounded by his children, fiancé, ex-wife, mother, and siblings, among others.
The decision to allow Perry to die must have been difficult for his family considering he was healthy and vibrant less than a week earlier. The fact that the hospital allowed Perry’s family to end life support means that Luke Perry likely had executed the proper legal documents so that his family could make the decision. Specifically, in California, those wishes generally are made in writing, through an Advance Directive or a Power of Attorney. Without a proper legal document, Luke Perry’s family may have needed an order from a probate court to terminate life support if any of the family members disagreed. That would have been a public and emotional process that would have prolonged his suffering and made it even harder for his family.
In 2015, Perry reportedly created a will, leaving everything to his two children. In that same year, Perry had discovered precancerous growths following a colonoscopy screening. According to a family friend, it was because of this scare that Perry created a will to protect his children.
It is very likely that Perry created a revocable living trust in addition to a simple will given his reported net worth of $10 million. If he had only a will, then his estate will have to pass through probate court. This would have meant not only hefty probate fees but a possible time consuming process of carrying out Perry’s estate wishes. Instead, if Perry had a trust — which is far more likely — and if his trust was properly funded (meaning that he transferred his assets into his trust prior to death), then his assets can pass onto his children without court intervention. Hopefully, Perry had the same foresight for his assets as he apparently did with his end-of-life documentation.
The one potential unresolved question is whether Luke Perry would have wanted something to go to his fiancé. Since his reported will was done in 2015, Perry likely did not include Bauer at the time. If the couple had gotten married prior to his death, then Bauer would typically have received rights as a “pretermitted spouse.” These rights would not have been automatic, but instead would have depended on the wording of his will and/or trust, as well as whether or not the couple signed a prenuptial agreement that addressed inheritance rights. But, if the documents did not indicate an intent to exclude Bauer as a beneficiary, then she would have been entitled to one-third of his estate under California law if they had been married.
Because Perry died before marriage, Bauer is not entitled to inherit anything through his will or trust. This is assuming the report that his children are his only beneficiaries is accurate and no later will, trust, or amendment is found that includes Bauer. And it is still possible that Perry left money for Bauer in other ways, such as through a joint bank account or life insurance.
Luke Perry’s tragic death provides an important lesson for everyone. No one should wait until they are “old” to do their estate planning. Perry’s cancer scare in 2015 sparked him to take action, which simplified the process for his family to terminate life support and will likely make the process of dividing his estate easier.
Hopefully Luke Perry’s death can raise awareness that everyone should follow his lead and not procrastinate when it comes to estate planning. Luke Perry reminds us that tragedy can strike anyone and if that happens, we all want our loved ones to be protected.