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Interesting Issue Over Health Ledger’s Oscar

As San Diego estate planning attorneys, we at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation, have been following the story of Heath Ledger as it related to his estate plan. You may recall that he had a will leaving his estate to his parents and siblings and then later had a daughter Matilda. His family decided that even though the will made no mention of children, they would give his entire estate, estimated to be about $20 million, to Matilda. Now another interesting aspect:

At the recent Academy Awards, Heath Ledger posthumously received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the Dark Knight. There was some controversy before the Awards as to who would become “Oscar’s” owner. The director of the academy, Bruce Davis, said it was complicated because there was the issue of who would accept the award and then who would keep the statute. According to the Academy’s tradition, when an award is given posthumously it usually goes to the spouse or to the oldest child if there is not spouse. Health Ledger wasn’t married and his daughter is only 3 years old. Being 3, Matilda would not be able to sign the “winner’s agreement” which is a contract between the Academy and the winner that the winner will not sell the Oscar without first offering it back to the Academy for $1.00. The whole issue was resolved by deciding to give the statue to Matilda but her mother Michelle Williams will be the legal custodian. When Matilda turns 18, she can sign the agreement on her own behalf and then she will be legally bound not to sell the statue.

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