The King of Pop and Prince - by Jennifer Hester Hall

Jennifer Hester |

What do Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Jimi Hendrix & Ray Charles all have in common? They were talented? Yes. They were wealthy? Yes. Would you have guessed that they died without a will? Unfortunately YES! It kind of leaves you scratching your head? Surely between all their business partners, agents and copyright attorneys, someone would have helped them put a plan in place in the event of their passing. Not so.

The legal term for dying without a will is “intestate succession.” If a person dies, succession laws step in and determine the distributions. The exact laws of intestate succession vary depending on your state. If you die without leaving a will, the legal consequences can be disastrous, particularly if you have a lot of assets. Instead of being able to decide in advance how your property will be divided among your heirs, your assets are distributed according to the state succession laws. The outcome may be entirely against what you wanted to happen and more often than not leads to fighting among your heirs over the distribution of your estate with lots of money being wasted on attorneys’ fees rather than for the benefit of your loved ones. In addition, a judge shouldn't have to decide who receives a family heirloom, or in Prince’s case, lots of purple clothes.

There are also negative tax consequences that may arise for your estate as well as your heirs if you don't have a will and don't provide for any tax avoidance methods. Both federal and state governments may impose taxes on the transfer of your property, and a tax may also be imposed on the property distributed to your heirs. In Prince’s case, it is estimated that his family may pay upwards of $146 MILLION in estate taxes! Eek!

Having a will allows you to have discretion over the distribution of your property and assets. If you have minor children, a will lets you provide for their care. Most importantly, a will would prevent conflicts between your already grieving survivors since the will would dictate who gets what, which is the best way to make sure your loved ones will be properly cared for after your passing. Need to talk through creating, updating or reviewing your estate plans? Give us a call!