As has been widely reported by various media outlets, when musician Prince died unexpectedly earlier this year, he apparently did not have a will in place. In fact, it currently appears that the pop icon may not have left behind any estate plan at all – a circumstance that could leave the fate of his music and fortune in the hands of a judge who will be forced to apply the often-archaic laws of “intestate succession.”
When Someone Dies Without a Will
When a person dies without a will, any assets that are not covered by another estate planning tool (such as a trust or beneficiary designation) get distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. “Intestate” simply means, “without a will,” and intestate succession laws in Wisconsin and other states around the country lay out comprehensive structures for determining when certain family members (called “heirs”) are entitled to a portion of the decedent’s estate. However, intestate succession laws do not always reflect everyone’s true final wishes, and that is one of the many reasons why it is essential to ensure that a sound estate plan is in place.
If Prince did in fact die without an estate plan, this means that his estimated $150 million-plus estate – including his rights in his music, real estate, bank accounts, and physical assets – will all be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession, and not his final wishes.
The Benefits of Comprehensive Estate Planning
For someone like Prince, the benefits of estate planning are enormous. For one, probating an estate as large as his can be inordinately expensive, and can easily lead to contentious disputes among the surviving family members. By using trusts and other estate planning tools, Prince could have not only avoided unnecessary legal fees and clearly determined who would receive his assets, but also established restrictions on the use of his music after his death. This is one point that has been highlighted in some of the recent coverage.
While this last point may seem less relevant to the average estate planner, it is actually more relevant than you might think. While you may not own a highly valuable music catalog, you may own other assets over which you want to retain a certain amount of control after your death. For example, if you have minor children, you may want to leave them money, a car, or an asset with deep personal value; however, you might not want them to have access to these assets until they reach a certain age. By using a relatively simple trust, for example, it is possible to establish conditions that will ensure that both your assets and your loved ones are adequately protected.
In fact, when you begin to explore all of the options that are available, you can gain an even clearer picture of just how important it is – even if you aren’t a world-famous musician – to plan your estate. Learn more about crafting your will and using non-probate transfers in the estate planning process.
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
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If you are ready to get started with your estate plan, contact Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. to schedule an initial consultation. To speak with an attorney, call our Wausau, WI law offices at (715) 842-2291 or request an appointment online today.