The untimely passing of the artist known as Prince brought to light a potentially devastating situation a lot of people face. You see, the reports are that Prince did not have a Last Will and Testament. The result was a total mess for his family in disputes and complex legal issues resulting in lengthy and costly litigation.

According to various media reports, Prince’s closest full sibling is a sister, Tyka Nelson. She recently filed court documents to open a probate case in Minnesota’s Carver County, which is where her brother’s Paisley Park estate is located. She stated, “I do not know of the existence of a Will and have no reason to believe that the Decedent executed testamentary documents in any form.” He also had half-siblings, some of whom he has had little or no contact with for years.

Estimates put Prince’s worth up to $300 million. Even though he is now deceased, his wealth could grow exponentially. His music sales have exploded since his death. He also had his own record label and, reportedly, thousands of unreleased songs. The Prince brand is still very much alive and will be for decades to come.

Without a will, Minnesota law states that his estate would go to his sister and those half-siblings. A similar situation happened after the death of Michael Jackson. In his case, however, a trust was later discovered and the settlement became less adversarial.

Your will is a legally-binding statement directing who will receive your property at your death. It also appoints a legal representative to carry out your wishes. However, the will covers only probate property. (Probate is the court process by which a deceased person’s property is passed to his or her heirs and people named in the will.) Many types of property or forms of ownership pass outside of probate. Jointly-owned property, property in trust, life insurance proceeds and property with a named beneficiary, such as IRAs or 401(k) plans, all pass outside of probate

Why should you have a will? Here are some reasons:

  1. With a will you can direct where and to whom your estate (what you own) will go after your death. If you died intestate (without a will), your estate would be distributed according to your state’s law. Such distribution may or may not accord with your wishes. Many people try to avoid probate and the need for a will by holding all of their property jointly with their children. This can work, but often people spend unnecessary effort trying to make sure all the joint accounts remain equally distributed among their children. These efforts can be defeated by a long-term illness of the parent or the death of a child. A will can be a much simpler means of carrying out one’s wishes about how assets should be distributed.
  2. Wills make the administration of your estate run smoothly. Often the probate process can be completed more quickly and at less expense to your estate if there is a will. With a clear expression of your wishes, there are unlikely to be any costly, time-consuming disputes over who gets what.
  3. Your will is the only way to choose the person to administer your estate and distribute it according to your instructions. This person is called your “executor” (or “executrix” if you appoint a woman) or “personal representative,” depending on your state’s statute. If you do not have a will naming him or her, the court will make the choice for you. Usually the court appoints the first person to ask for the post, whoever that may be.
  4. For larger estates, a well-planned will can help reduce estate taxes.
  5. A will allows you to appoint who will take your place as guardian of your minor children should both you and their other parent both pass away.

If you die without a will

Without a will, in the case of Prince, Minnesota law states that his estate would go to his sister and those half-siblings. A similar situation happened after the death of Michael Jackson. In his case, however, a trust was later discovered and the settlement became less adversarial.

If you are married, most states award one-third to one-half of your estate to your spouse, with the rest divided among your children or, if you don’t have children, to other living relatives such as your parents or siblings. If you are single, most states provide that your estate will go to your children or to other living relatives if you don’t have children. If you have absolutely no living relatives, then your estate will go to the state. This is typically not the individual’s preferred disposition.

Note that any jointly held assets, such as bank accounts or houses, will go directly to the co-owner. In addition, any life insurance policies or retirement accounts will go directly to the beneficiary designated on the account. And if you have a trust, any assets in the trust will go to the beneficiary designated in the trust.

One can safely assume that Prince had no other estate plan documents either. Without a General Durable Power of Attorney and health care advance directive, his affairs would have been thrown into similar turmoil if he had become incapacitated.

The best way to ensure your affairs are handled as you want and your estate is distributed the way you want it, is to have your own comprehensive estate plan.

Take the advice of Stinson Law. Most of you know how essential it is to have an estate plan. Maybe it’s time for you to now get around to getting one done. Without it, you have no control over how your assets are used for you and how your assets are allocated at your death.

 

Our goal at the Stinson Law Firm is to secure your present and future and leave you with the peace of mind you deserve. Contact us today.

 

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