Prince Leaving Ultimate Control to Others- a Conflicting Truth

Sharan Lee Levine

Prince’s death without an apparent Will or estate plan is causing many people to ask questions about what happens to a person’s property and wealth if you die without a Will. And these questions are reminding many people to think and do something about their own estate plans.  Prince died- and unless proven otherwise – intestate. This means that the State law for the distribution of his assets will trump any wishes or intentions he may have had for his property but did not put in writing.  Michigan law determines who is to get the property of the deceased if you do not exercise control over your property and assets.

You can already see the lengthy process and expense that will be involved in administering his estate. Who is entitled to his assets and how those assets will be divided will be a process that will go on for years. And all of this time and expense is unnecessary; and from what I hear about Prince his lack of action on this significant issue flies in the face of his interest in controlling his music, name, and work.

Prince is not alone of smart and significant persons who fail to properly manage their estate plans. In 1994, United States Chief Justice Warren Burger died without a proper Will. His estate- modest by comparison to Prince- was valued at approximately $1.8 million, but his family paid almost a half-million in estate taxes- an unnecessary expense.  Justice Burger wrote his own Will.  The Will contained not just spelling errors and was poorly drafted, but failed to sufficiently provide the executors with the authority to properly manage his assets causing lengthy and expensive probate proceedings. 

Even if you do not wish to control precisely how your assets will be distributed after death- most people do not want to shoulder our loved ones with the hassle of wrangling with assets- minimal or significant in size. Most of us want to make sure our property- even those much less than these gentlemen are distributed to our loved ones as we decide- with the least amount of legal expense and government intrusion. 

All persons, from college age to elders, need a Durable Power of Attorney and a health care directive. A Will or maybe a Trust is in your best interest – for many different reasons. At a minimum, nearly every working person should make sure that the beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement plans are correctly and properly defined.  Titles to homes or other real property need to be carefully reviewed to make sure that the ownership is clear and properly drafted.  Perhaps you have personal mementos and family heirlooms that should be given to particular persons.  This can only be accomplished if you prepare a proper estate plan.  Seek professional help – in the end, the expense of the plan is much less than the increased cost to have your assets distributed to persons you might not have wanted to benefit from.

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