A judge granted a petition by the nephew of the late Christian Audigier to change the family’s living trust so that the French designer’s widow, a non-U.S. citizen, can claim the marital exemption for estate tax purposes.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lesley Green ruled Thursday that Nathalie Sorensen, a foreign citizen, can take advantage of the marital deduction. The designer’s nephew, Vincent Audigier, filed the petition on her behalf Oct. 12.
Audigier’s most famous brands were Ed Hardy and Von Dutch, but he also worked on lines for Levi’s Diesel, Guess, American Outfitters, Bisou Bisou and XOXO. Two of his biggest celebrity supporters were Madonna and the late Michael Jackson.
Audigier died in July 2015 at age 57 of the bone marrow illness myelodysplastic syndrome, the same disease that “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts was diagnosed with in 2012.
After Audigier learned he had the disease, he and Sorensen, his longtime partner, married in early 2015 so that she could enjoy the tax benefits of a surviving spouse after his death, according to court papers filed by lawyers for Vincent Audigier. He is a co-trustee of the Audigier living trust along with his late uncle’s widow.
The trust was created in 2005 when Audigier was single. After he married, the trust was reformed to refer to Sorensen as his wife, according to the attorneys’ court papers. Audigier is also survived by four children.
However, in the last version of the trust, language was left out that would allow Sorensen, as a foreign citizen, to take advantage of the marital deduction, according to the attorneys’ court papers. The judge’s ruling changes the trust to a qualifying domestic trust so she can receive the marital deduction.
Attorney Richard Wildman, who drafted the last version of the Audigier trust, stated in a sworn declaration that Audigier “was in a rush to have the trust amended as he was terminally ill” and expected to die soon thereafter.
“In my haste, I inadvertently did not counsel Christian regarding the special terms needed to quality the gift to Nathalie as one that would meet the requirements for the marital deduction from (the) estate tax, nor did I change the terms accordingly,” Wildman stated.
Wildman said he did not know Sorensen was not a U.S. citizen.
Reformation of the trust also was necessary to carry out its intended purposes, Vincent Audigier’s attorneys’ court papers stated.
“In his last will, Christian further indicated his intention that his estate and surviving spouse have the maximum benefit under the marital deduction,” the attorneys’ court papers stated.
Audigier married his wife knowing he was near death and because he wanted to make sure the property he left to her “could pass to her free of estate taxes,” according to the lawyers’ court papers.