A Legal Expert Explains: Why Matthew Perry Only Had $1.5 Million in the Bank at the Time of His Death

Following Matthew Perry’s death in October 2023, the fulfillment of his will has been ongoing

Published Time: 04.07.2024 - 05:31:12 Modified Time: 04.07.2024 - 05:31:12

Following Matthew Perry’s death in October 2023, the fulfillment of his will has been ongoing.

In recent documents obtained by PEOPLE on July 2, an appraisal and inventory showed the Friends star left behind $1.5 million in his personal bank account. This number was seemingly small to many, given Perry’s success in the entertainment industry, and questions have arisen about where his money has gone.

"It appears that everything in his will was left to his trust," probate lawyer and Director at Weinstock Manion Jonathan Forster, who is not involved in the case, explains to PEOPLE.

The rest of Perry’s wealth was likely already put in his trust — called the “Alvy Singer Living Trust,” which is seemingly named after Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall — before his passing.

“The reason why we use trusts as opposed to wills is that trusts also avoid probate, and probate is a court-supervised transfer of assets, and probate is public,” Forster says.

When personal property, such as cash, is left in the deceased person’s name, it needs to be transferred to their trust and distributed by beneficiaries. In the initial estimate of his personal property filed in March, it was believed he had $1,030,000 in assets under his name.

In the updated inventory found in June, the actual amount in Perry's probate estate was determined to be $1,596,914.47, which was the money in his personal bank account.

“When we're typically doing an estate plan with a will and a trust, the will simply leaves assets to the trust,” he explains. “You would fund the trust during your lifetime. The will would be kind of like a catch-all, where if there are any assets owned by the person when they pass away, the will is directed to transfer those assets into the trust.”

This is why Perry’s will showed he owned no “real property” even though PEOPLE has confirmed he owned two homes when he died. His trustee Lisa Ferguson is on the title of the Pacific Palisades residence Perry died in, and the title of his other house was under Alvy Singer LLC., the same name as his trust.

“Everythin -

g under the trust is not subject to probate, and everything that has a beneficiary designation is not subject to probate,” Forster says.

He also clarifies that there are several reasons someone would leave money in their personal name instead of transferring it to a trust.

"We would always advise clients to retitle their accounts in the name of their trust to avoid probate," Forster says. "However, Matthew Perry likely failed to retitle this account."

There is no way to know the details of all Perry’s assets, Forster tells PEOPLE. While information in a will is made public as a case goes through probate, a trust always remains private and can only be accessed by its beneficiaries and trustees.

“That's never going to become a public number,” he says.

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Perry died on Oct. 28, 2023 in a drowning at his home in Los Angeles. An autopsy report obtained by PEOPLE in December revealed it was a result of the acute effects of ketamine, which was equivalent to the amount that would be used under general anesthesia.

Although Perry was doing ketamine treatment (he was reportedly “clean for 19 months”), the medical examiner stated that could not have been the cause of his death.

In the months before he died, Perry, who battled with alcohol and drug addiction in the past, was planning to create a foundation for those experiencing substance abuse. In early November, his family kept his legacy alive and launched The Matthew Perry Foundation in his honor.

"The Matthew Perry Foundation is the realization of Matthew's enduring commitment to helping others struggling with the disease of addiction," the mission statement reads. "It will honor his legacy and be guided by his own words and experiences and driven by his passion for making a difference in as many lives as possible."

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