Updated: August 24, 2018

What estate planning lessons can we learn from Prince's death?

The tragic death of Prince at the age of 57 dominated the headlines as observers from around the world mourned the music legend’s passing. In addition to considering his musical legacy, the press reports soon turned to stories about the musician’s estate – had he left a will? If not, who would inherit the substantial assets he was said to have left behind?

Prince’s death, in addition to the public interest in generated, can provide some valuable lessons about the estate planning process. Whatever the amount or type of assets you intend to leave to your heirs, the value of having an estate plan is demonstrated by the circumstances of the music legend’s death.

Passing away without a will or living trust

Initial reports have stated that Prince left behind no will; or if there was one, that nobody knew where it was. There are two principles to be learned here:

  1. First is the importance of drawing up a will or a trust that specifies what is be done with your assets after your death; if this is not done, the state steps in to make these decisions. This is not only a potentially expensive and time-consuming process, but also one that can cause a great deal of rancor among your loved ones.
     
  2. Second, if you have drawn up a will, it is extremely important that you let your nominated personal representative know where it is. Having a will that can’t be found is essentially the same as having no will. If you have placed the will in a safety deposit box or other secure location, make sure your representative knows how to access the location in the event of your death.

While failing to create a will does not necessarily prevent your heirs from inheriting your assets, it does complicate things, especially in situations where there are a wide variety of potential heirs.

What happens when family members disagree over how to distribute your assets?

Assets will generally not go to the state unless there are simply no blood relatives to be found. However, if you have blood relatives who might disagree about how assets should be distributed, things can get complex.

This can include children from a previous marriage, children born out of wedlock (acknowledged or not) and half-siblings, not to mention other blood relatives and any claims wives, ex-wives and step-children may make on the estate.

It is not clear exactly which or how many of these classes will be involved in seeking to benefit from Prince’s estate, but reports are that a number of people have come forward to claim a share of the estate, however dubious their connection to the entertainment icon might be.

Was Prince’s lack of a will willful? It is not impossible that Prince decided not to draw up a will for reasons of his own. For some individuals, the prospect of facing one’s own mortality involved in creating a will can be so daunting as to cause long delays in the process or prevent it altogether.

Whatever the case may have been, failing to create a will does not help when it comes to passing on your belongings to family members and loved ones.

The long, often expensive process of probate is made even more so when an individual dies intestate (without a will). Moreover, the assets that a person has worked so hard to generate during their life can be disposed of in a manner quite contrary to their wishes after their death if they don’t take the time to create some sort of plan for the distribution of those assets while they are alive.

Create an estate plan to avoid probate and family conflicts

If you or a loved one needs help setting up an estate plan to avoid some of these issues, call Amity Law Group today at (626) 307-2800 for a free consultation with our experienced trust and estate lawyers.

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