Stephen Laurel Boss, also known as “tWitch,” was an American DJ, hip-hop dancer, choreographer, television producer, and actor whose personality lit up the stage on So You Think You Can Dance and as a producer and frequent guest host on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Boss also co-hosted the TV show Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings alongside his wife and fellow dancer, Allison Holkers.
Boss and Holkers shared a seemingly extremely happy life together in Los Angeles, California where they were raising their three children, ages 3, 7, and 14. Sadly, on December 13, 2022, Boss died by suicide at the age of 40. Boss’ death was a complete shock to fans and loved ones who reported the star seemed happy in the weeks leading up to his death.
Boss died without a Will or Trust in place, meaning his wife, Allison Holker, has the task of petitioning the California court system to release Boss’ share of their assets to her. While California has tools to simplify this process for some couples, Holker will still need to wait months before she can formally take possession of the property Boss owned with her, as well as property held in his name alone, including his share of his production company, royalties, and his personal investment account.
Unnecessary Court Involvement In a Time of Grief
In order to have access to her late husband’s assets, Holker had to make a public filing in the Los Angeles County Probate Court by filing a California Spousal Property Petition, which asks the court to transfer ownership of a deceased spouse’s property to the surviving spouse. Holker must also prove she was legally married to Boss at the time of his death.
While California’s Spousal Property Petition helps speed up an otherwise lengthy probate court process, the court’s involvement nonetheless delays Holker’s ability to access her late husband’s assets – a hurdle no one wants to deal with in the wake of a devastating loss. In addition, the court probate process is entirely public, meaning that the specific assets Holker is trying to access are made part of the public record and available for anyone to read.
During such a difficult time, all a person wants is the space to mourn and manage their loved one’s affairs in privacy and peace. With court involvement, the timeline of steps that need to be taken is dictated by the court, and the process of proving your right to manage your loved one’s assets can feel like an unfair burden when there are so many other things to take care of during the death of a loved one.
This isn’t just a problem for the wealthy. Even if you own a modest estate at your death, your family will need to go through the probate court process to transfer ownership of your assets if you don’t have an estate plan in place.
How to Prevent This From Happening to Your Loved Ones
When someone dies without an estate plan in place, the probate court’s involvement can be a lengthy and public affair. At a minimum, you can expect the probate process to last at least 6 months and oftentimes as long as 18 months or more. Court involvement in Boss’ passing could have been completely avoided if Boss and Holker had created a revocable living trust to hold their family’s assets. If they had, Holker would have had immediate access to all of the couple’s assets upon Boss’ death, eliminating the need to petition a court or wait for its approval before accessing the funds that rightly belong to her.
A Trust would have also kept the family’s finances private. With a Trust, only the person in charge of managing the Trust assets (the Trustee) and the Trust’s direct beneficiaries need to know how the assets in a Trust are used. There is also no court-imposed timeline on the Trustee for taking care of your final matters (with the exception of some tax elections), so your family can move at the pace that’s right for them when the time comes to put your final affairs in order.
The privacy that a trust provides also helps to eliminate potential family conflict because only the parties directly involved in the Trust will know what the Trust says. If issues between family members arise over the contents of the Trust, the Trust will lay out all of your wishes in detail, so that all family members are on the same page and understand your wishes for the ones you’ve left behind.
This article is a service of Davidek Law Firm, PLLC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure that families and business owners make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for themselves and the people they love.