Some people in Florida might have assumed that when heiress and fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt died, she left an enormous estate behind. There was speculation that it might be worth as much as $200 million. However, based on probate documents, her estate was valued at $1.5 million, and the majority of that was from her midtown co-op worth $1.3 million. She left the co-op to her oldest son and the rest to her youngest son, journalist Anderson Cooper.
Cooper had said in the past that he did not have a trust fund and did not expect a large inheritance. Vanderbilt was from one of the richest families in the country. Her $2.5 million trust fund would be worth $35 million in today's dollars. Her denim fashion line was reputed to be worth $100 million at one point. However, she reportedly spent a lavish amount of money on philanthropy and on herself.
Furthermore, her finances might have been mismanaged. She had to sell two homes to pay back taxes to the IRS, and she also sued her psychiatrist and lawyer in the 1990s, saying her business interests were sold without her permission and that money was stolen.
Some prominent people choose a trust instead of a will as the foundation of their estate plan since it offers more privacy and financial advantages, but in Vanderbilt's case, a will might have been a better choice given that her estate was relatively small. However, the task for the executor, which includes locating all assets, paying taxes and other creditors, and distributing remaining assets, can still feel overwhelming. This may particularly be the case if there are challenges to the will from family members or others. Executors may hire professionals to assist them, and an attorney can help with the process of estate administration and probate.