Stephen Hawking: The Grand Design

Arguably one of the most recognizable faces in science, Stephen Hawking died aged 76 in March 2018.  One of the greatest minds that ever lived, Hawking was diagnosed with the early stages of ALS when he was just 21. This was a motivating factor for many of his accomplishments including his life work researching black holes and the theory of relativity.  

He amassed wealth through his employment at Cambridge, his multiple best-selling novels, speaking fees, and royalties from movies based on his life, and guest appearances on television in shows like “The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory”.  However many believe it is on the more conservative side of the scale given the cost of his medical care and both of his divorce settlements.

Hawking left behind, £16.3 Million (around $20 Million) in his last will and testament.  He used a trust fund to transfer his fortune to his three children, Robert, Timothy, and Lucy, instructing that his academic awards and medals - including 13 honorary degrees, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Companion of Honour - be split between them. He also bequeathed £10 Thousand to his long-time personal assistant Judith Croasdell.

A significant portion will go fund the charity he founded during his lifetime as well as the Stephen Hawkins Foundation, to facilitate research into Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Fundamental Particle Physics research as well as motor neuron diseases.

The Stephen Hawking Foundation was launched in 2015 to advance his scientific and medical interests now that he’s gone. In creating a foundation, any assets that the donor contributes to the foundation during life or upon death are entitled to a charitable deduction for tax purposes.  

We learned in June that Professor Hawkings Archive and some of his personal effects and office contents passed into public ownership under an Acceptance in Lieu scheme.  This scheme (‘AIL’), provides a means for private property to come into public ownership at no direct cost to the receiving institution, which becomes the new owner.  Using this strategy has saved Stephen Hawking’s Estate around £4.2 Million of inheritance tax.

With proper planning, your estate plan can encompass your charitable and personal goals while also saving you tax dollars.  To learn more, schedule a consultation with our experienced estate planning attorneys today to discuss your estate and trust planning options. 


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