A few weeks ago, the news media were replete with articles about the highly successful, music genius, rock-legend Prince.  He has sadly joined the ranks of world-famous icons who have died leaving fans wanting more.  He has also apparently joined the group of such people who have died without a last will & testament.  There has been a lot of speculation about the cause of death, including suspected drug overdose, but I’ll leave that discussion to the medical examiners and toxicologists who do the autopsy.  What interests me the most are the following questions:  How could someone so obviously intelligent, skilled at business, successful, wealthy, and legally savvy die without a will or a trust in place?  And, if that is the case, who gets his stuff?

Of course, there’s no way to prove that Prince didn’t make a will.  All we can see is that so far nobody has produced a valid will that was signed by Prince.  If indeed there was no will made, Prince has died intestate.  Intestate means “without a last will and testament.”  Each State has their own rules about who inherits what in the absence of a will.  Minnesota has intestate laws that are very similar to–but not exactly the same as– Hawaii’s intestate laws.  So, Prince’s sister has initiated a claim in Probate court, on behalf of herself and their half-siblings, to inherit his estate which has been estimated by Forbes Magazine to be worth as much as $300 Million. Half-siblings and full-siblings are treated equally under these intestate laws.

If there are no illegitimate children of his that come forward and prove paternity by DNA test, it looks like Prince’s siblings will be the ones to inherit from his estate as he had no spouse, legitimate children, or parents living at the time of his death.

So how could it be that Prince hadn’t done a will? Like most of us, maybe he thought he had plenty of time to deal with that later.  Maybe he didn’t want to think about death and tried to avoid the subject.  Maybe he didn’t know to whom he should leave his assets.  Whatever the reason, unless a will is produced the State will now determine what will happen to his assets.

What’s the lesson here?  It’s never too early to plan for your demise.  If you haven’t done an estate plan or haven’t had it reviewed and updated in the last 5 to 10 years, it’s time to go see an estate planning specialist attorney to make sure your wishes are honored when you pass away so that your burial, transfer of assets, and especially the care of your minor children, are handled in the manner that you want when you pass away.

You don’t need a princely fortune to make good use of a will and/or a trust.  In fact, regardless of the size of your estate, your age, your marital/family status, and your earning potential, it makes sense to plan to protect what you’ve worked so hard to build whether it’s a small fortune or your precious family.  Don’t wait until it’s too late!



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Ethan R. Okura received his Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree from Columbia University in 2002.  He specializes in Estate Planning to protect assets from nursing home costs, probate, estate taxes, and creditors.

This column is for general information only.  The facts of your case may change the advice given.  Do not rely on the information in this column without consulting an estate planning specialist.