The recent death of music superstar Prince has generated considerable amounts of press, as often happens when celebrities pass away prematurely and under mysterious circumstances.
In addition to the questions surrounding the cause of his death, a slew of articles have crossed my email inbox fretting over the fact that Prince may have not engaged in any estate planning. His sister, Tyka Nelson, filed documents in court stipulating that her brother did not have a valid will, to her knowledge.
For someone with his wealth, and with the potential for ongoing revenue from song royalties after his death, the lack of proper estate planning comes as a shock. Prince was known to be a shrewd businessman, particularly when it comes to his music. If it’s true that he did not make arrangements for his estate, it would represent a severe lapse in judgment. Under Minnesota intestacy law, Prince’s estate would get divided among his next-of-kin, putting his sister and half-siblings in charge.
One reason Prince’s estate is complicated is the rumored amount of unreleased music – by some estimates, several thousand songs in various stages of completion, which would eclipse the amount of music he released while he was alive. Someone needs to manage Prince’s musical legacy, both his past output and any future releases from his alleged vault.
And yet, Prince’s inaction when it comes to his estate could serve as his second legacy, after his music: an awareness of the importance of estate planning.
Surveys show that estate planning is on par with a root canal as one of the things people avoid most. No one likes thinking about their death.
But estate planning isn’t really about you – it’s about the people you leave behind, and how arrangements and decisions made today will make things easy on them when the inevitable happens.
You don’t need wealth of Prince’s magnitude to need estate planning. Forget the word “estate,” which conjures up images of lavish mansions. Your estate is everything you own, no matter how much or how little.
Most people need at least a will, and many can benefit from a living trust as well. Other key documents are those that come into play in the event of disability or incapacity, not death: durable power of attorney for finances and an advance directive for health care.
I also recommend a “starter” estate plan with powers of attorney and advance directives for children who reach the age of majority, 18.
It remains to be seen whether someone will come forward claiming to have a will or trust for Prince. Even if that doesn’t happen, the attention his case has garnered about estate planning and its importance will hopefully lead more people to engaging in that process.
And that’s a legacy that can have an even more profound impact than his incredible music.
Questions or comments? Contact me on Twitter @juanros or LinkedIn.