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Mega Estate Planning: Who Gets Jobs' Billions?

So much of estate planning in New York and elsewhere is devoted to preparing for a future event which most of us are not all that ecstatic about occurring. Nevertheless, estate planning for wealthy people is a necessary and vital part of a well devised financial scheme. While we are inundated with advice and suggestions for preparation of wills and trusts on a constant basis, the October 5 death of a technological genius affords an opportunity to see how he planned for the inevitable event we all must face.

Steven Jobs was a visionary and registered close to 400 patents and patent applications for various technologies. He was not considered charitably focused during his lifetime, given the $8.3 billion fortune he amassed. While he did not participate in Warren Buffett's and Bill Gate's initiative for the wealthiest people to give away at least half of their wealth, he did donate $150 million to the Helen Diller Cancer Center at the University of California in San Francisco.

The contents of his will have not yet been disclosed, though there is a fair amount of speculation as to who might inherit. His wife, whom he met in 1989, and their three children figure to play prominently in his bequests. He also has a daughter from a previous relationship. From there, the landscape is complicated by the fact that he was adopted.

While his adoptive parents are dead, the couple also had another adopted daughter whom Jobs knew as his sister. He met his birthmother and is said to have had a relationship with her, though he refused to meet his birthfather. He also met the author Mona Simpson, his biological sister, when they were adults. Jobs considered their relationship close.

How those facts impacted the estate planning decision Jobs made remain to be seen. But they demonstrate that lives are often complicated, whether one's proposed estate is $8 billion or substantially less. The fact that Jobs succumbed to cancer at relatively young age underscores the necessity of addressing these important issues early and often, in deference to the fact that relationships as well as laws change.

Source: The International Business Times, "Who will Inherit Steve Jobs' $8.3 Billion?," Kristin Mariano, Oct. 7, 2011