Jenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea
Celebrity Estate Planning - Stephen "tWitch" Boss - Episode 86
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners! This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Today, we’re on the “estate planning of the rich and famous” topic and for today’s episode, we’re going to dive into someone that again, so recently passed away and it came out of the blue – Stephen tWitch Boss is who today’s episode is on. Last “celebrity estate planning” episode was on Lisa Marie Pressley, who passed away very recently and somewhat surprisingly, so sadly, that’s the case here with him too. Now, Stephen Twitch Boss informally went by Twitch, so from here on out, let’s call him Twitch. Twitch is likely best known for being the DJ on the Ellen Degeneres Show – she’d, like every episode, talk to him and his big smile would light up the room. He wasn’t a Co-Host with Ellen, but they definitely went back-and-forth a lot of her episodes! Twitch was also well-known for being a dance – he participated in So You Think You Can Dance, and it was through his dancing career that he met his wife, Allison Holker.
Sadly, very very sadly, Twitch recently passed away from suicide. Many celebrities and friends of Twitch came out with the general message of … even though Twitch brought a ton of light into this world, he, like so many, faced deep internal struggles. Twitch took his own life on December 13, 2022 at the age of 40 years old. One of the celebrities that released a message about Twitch was none other than Justin Timberlake and after reading many celebrities’ statements (including Michelle Obama, Ciara, Viola Davis, Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, etc. etc.), I think Justin’s probably beautifully captured everyone’s statements maybe the best. He said, “It’s heartbreaking to hear that someone who brought so much joy to a room was hurting so much behind closed doors. I’ve known Twitch for over 20 years through the dance community – he always lit everything up. You just never know what someone is really going through. Take care of yourselves. Love that human in the mirror. Check on your people. Sending light to his beautiful family in this dark, confusing time. You will be missed, sir. Rest easy.”
It seems like quite an appropriate time to mention what Michelle Obama mentioned in her message – which is that if you are struggling and need someone to talk to, remember that you are not alone, and never alone. There is always someone willing and wanting to help you. You can call or text the suicide and crisis hotline by dialing 988, or by going to 988lifeline.org.
Before we dive into what is going on estate-wise following Twitch’s tragic passing, let’s talk a little bit more about him as a person … so, we know he was married to Allison Holker, a fellow dancer. Prior to her marriage to Twitch, Allison had a daughter, Weslie, who Twitch ended up adopting, and together, Twitch and Allison had two children, Maddox and Zaia (Zie-uh). Therefore, they had three children – Weslie, Maddox, and Zaia (Zie-uh). Professionally-speaking, Twitch, like I said, was most known for being the DJ on the Ellen Degeneres Show. He started on the Show in April 2014 – and then in August 2020, he was made a Co-Executive Producer of it until the Show came to a historic end in May 2022 (after the Show started way back when in September 2003).
After Twitch’s passing, it was discovered he did not have any type of Will, Trust, or estate plan. Because he did not have a Will, according to People Magazine who had obtained filings with the California Court for Twitch’s estate, Twitch’s estate would go by the California estate rules. Sadly, because we’ve had so many celebrities here on Legal Tea that pass away without any type of estate, if you’re a faithful Legal Tea Listener, you sure know that the rules that often govern in situations like this are called “intestacy rules.” Though, in case you’re a newbie listener, intestacy rules are in place for individuals who die without a Will.
They’re a “built-in” estate plan that the State creates, which yeah, doesn’t sound too great, huh? Well, your hunch is accurate because the rather strange thing about these intestacy rules is that they are not incredibly … intuitive. What I mean by that is many people think, “Oh, if I die, everything will go to my spouse.” Well a lot of States, including Indiana (where this podcast is based from), say that HALF the estate goes to spouse, HALF goes to kids.
Though, from my research, California must do things a tad different, which is not incredibly surprising. I say this because none of the articles I read, and trust me – I read a lot of them – really talked about Allison having to open an estate; instead, if you really read articles and pay attention to the wording, it’s not that at all. So, let me talk about what she HAS filed so far…
In the filings with the California Court for Twitch’s estate, Allison filed a Petition called a Spousal Property Petition, which according to People Magazine, sort of confirms with the Court that the spouse … really is the spouse … and such spouse is entitled to their half of their deceased’s spouse’s estate. Which, to me, makes me so, so sad – Allison, of course, has to be in a state of complete and utter sadness. Not only sadness, but she has to be the glue that holds her family together. So not only is she carrying immense amount of sadness, but now she’s having to go through all this legal gobbly gook – basically so the Court “counts” her as his Twitch’s spouse, so she can have access to his estate/assets. That may sound crazy – but it’s the law. And like I tell so many clients, “I don’t write the laws – I just make sure my clients follow them.” So while this seems so crazy and perhaps, dare I say, silly or stupid, for her to have to go through, the State requires it. And there’s probably reasonable justification for having these laws in place, too, honestly.
But to anchor back to the intestacy rules, as well as the Spousal Property Petition I was just blabbing about, it’s sounding like she’s not needing to go through any sort of probate estate administration process, which would be when the intestacy rules would be governing. Instead, my educated guess, hey since I’m not licensed in California I’m not sure of their routine estate proceedings look like, that this Spousal Property Petition is, sort of, just a customary and normal thing that gets done. Actually, I remember several articles mentioned that – that, this Spousal Property Petition is a thing commonly done in these types of fact scenarios.
As I interpret these articles, ultimately, all of Twitch’s assets will likely end up in Allison’s hands, which of course is good news – here, in Indiana, if Twitch’s assets were in his name alone and he died without a Will, then ½ of those assets would go to Allison, ½ would go to his kids – though, in Indiana, as much as I can tell, that’s not what is going to happen. Instead, the Spousal Property Petition got filed to “prove” that Allison was Twitch’s spouse and upon approval, Twitch’s assets would go to Allison. Now, the source of this difference in how California is handling Twitch’s assets is likely because California is considered a “community property state.” Now, you may be thinking – what that heck does that mean? Well, there are less than 10 states in the US that ARE considered to be community property states, and California is one of them. If you care, the others are: Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. That’s according to Investopedia.
What is a community property state? Well, according to American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, community property is as follows: “Community property means that spouses who acquire property during marriage own property equally, 50/50. That means that one spouse on death can leave his or her share as he or she wants.” On top of this, it’s important to note that even though this is the “law” for community property states, that things like a Premarital Agreement (or informally called a Pre-Nup) can alter the distribution pattern in, say, cases of death and divorce. In Allison’s Spousal Property Petition, she confirmed for us that there was NOT a Pre-Nup. Because of that and what we now know about community property states, specifically what they are, that makes a lot more sense why Indiana, which is NOT a community property state, and California are different in how they’d handle Twitch’s estate.
What all that means is that the Spousal Property Petition that Allison filed is likely making the argument that 1) she is Twitch’s rightful spouse and 2) she’s entitled to his ½ of assets, since community property states say they each own a ½ of assets. It took a lot of time to “get here” and really understand why and how things have been working the way they have and are with Twitch’s estate. Initially, I was like, “Wait – he didn’t have a Will. Why are they not talking about the intestacy rules … and probate … and estate administration?” Well, the quick answer is that California just operates differently than other states and really, it essentially anchors back to California being one of the FEW states that remain, which are considered to be community property states. Interesting, right? It’s a classic example and case that every state has different laws and how they do stuff – even in my little estate and elder law world!
The quick takeaway from Twitch’s estate is that had he had any or more planning, likely some type of Trust, Allison, his wife, probably would not have had to go through the legal process that she’s going through. And, as I said before in this episode, it makes me extra sad that Allison, of course, has to be in this state of complete and utter sadness. And not only that, but she has to be the glue that holds her family together. So not only is she carrying immense amount of sadness, but now she’s having to go through all this legal gobbly gook, which likely could have been totally avoidable with a little estate planning – even in California, a community property state. Speaking of this, especially since I talked about a few different states here, if anyone ever needs a solid estate/elder law attorney referral, I’m part of a national organization of estate/elder law attorneys and I’d be happy to get you a name of someone in your state. Just reach out – LegalTeaPodcast@gmail.com
Alrighty, I think we’re ready to wrap this episode up, shall we? Next week we’re back to a “cautionary tale” episode where we talk about real-life clients, real-life cases that I, or my office, have worked on. During that episode, we’re going to be talking about a subject that may “hit home” to some of my Legal Tea Listeners, but even if it doesn’t, it’s good to know and listen in case it ever does impact you or a loved one. Next week’s episode is going to be about estate planning involving a beneficiary or beneficiaries with addiction issues. It requires some careful planning and tough conversations, but if you don’t plan well, there could be really severe repercussions which we’ll get into next tie. So, tune in for that next week, but until then, Legal Tea Listeners,– take care and be well!