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Hooper Law Office,LLC Estate Planning Blog

Monday, May 9, 2016

Prince Died Without a Will: What Can You Learn

If you’ve managed to catch a glimpse of the news in the past two weeks, you likely heard about the tragic and unexpected passing of pop icon, Prince. 

But what you may not have heard about is this—

The 57-year-old musician died without a will, leaving behind an estate valued between $150-300 million dollars, a vault of unreleased songs, and no explicitly defined benefactors.

The absence of a will is surprising for an artist known for having a meticulous nature, and questions abound as to what will happen to his hard-earned wealth.

At Hooper Law Office, LLC we have a few ideas surrounding what happens next…

When someone dies without an estate plan, they leave what’s legally known as an “intestate estate”—one in which the dying party has surrendered control of their assets because they’ve left no legally binding instructions as to how their wealth should be distributed. 

With no specific guidelines, it will become the court’s job to fill in the blanks and arrange for the intestate succession of Prince’s assets. 

The court will appoint an executor for the estate, and—after debts, taxes, and probate costs have been paid—will divide what’s left according to the laws of intestate succession. Legally, in the absence of a spouse, direct descendants (children) inherit assets first, then parents, then siblings, then other relatives. If there is a spouse, the amount passing through intestate succession is determined by the existence of biological or non-biological children and the manner in which the couple owned assets. 

Here’s the issue—it’s not as black and white as it sounds. Because Prince didn’t plan his estate, he has no control over who inherits what. Furthermore, because his intentions were not explicitly outlined, there will likely be lengthy legal battles as family members fight over rights, custody, or the valuation of particular assets.

Bottom line?—administering an estate in the absence of an estate plan can be both costly and time-consuming. 

That’s the irony when folks say they want to keep things simple and “not plan” their estate—yes, you might be making it easy for yourself (after all, you’ll be dead), but you’re passing the burden, both financial and emotional, on to your family.  

Do you have a spouse and want to leave them in possession of your entire estate?—in many US states this is only possible through a legally-binding estate plan. Without it, there’s no telling where your estate will go with certainty.  

Do you have children? Want to appoint a legal guardian, or set aside money for their education or future?—it can’t be definitively done without some form official estate plan.

Similarly, a trust, will, or other form of estate plan is the only way to ensure your children aren’t handed their inheritance in a lump sum at the age of 18—an age when they are incapable of making intelligent financial decisions.

Maybe you’d like to leave a portion of your money to those not related by blood—a close friend, a business partner, a charity or church? That’s an admirable aim, but one that will not come to pass without an effectively outlined estate plan

Remember—intestate law doesn’t provide for anyone outside the immediate family to inherit assets.

In Prince’s case, his entire legacy—his brand, name, cash, unpublished songs, homes, cars, etc.—will be controlled by Minnesota Probate law and the court system. 

The entire scope of his 57-year life is in the hands of people Prince never even met.

If you’re reading this, you—unlike Prince—still have time to plan your estate. 

It is a simple process and one that can ensure the protection of your wishes when it comes to the distribution of your assets. 

When you’re ready to learn more, attend our complimentary seminar Wills vs. Trusts. We will discuss various methods of estate planning and end with an overview of planning to afford nursing home costs. Click here to register for our complimentary seminar.

 



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