If you’re a music fan, you’ve probably heard by now that the late singer Prince appears to have died without a will in place. As a result, it is unclear who will end up controlling his Paisley Park estate, his music catalog and his ongoing legacy.
If a will is not found, Prince’s assets will likely end up being divided between his six siblings. For a man who was famously controlling of his image and his music, it is surprising that he would leave his legacy up to chance.
Of course, it is possible that Prince had used other estate planning tactics to manage his assets. But, he may have just fallen into the same trap that so many people do: ignoring death and assuming that you’re too young or too healthy for anything bad to happen.
Don’t let the state control your legacy
It is an unpleasant thought, but the reality is that no one can predict when they will pass away. If you don’t take proactive steps to ensure your wishes are carried out, state law will end up controlling what happens to your assets. In all likelihood, the outcome won’t be what you would have chosen.
When someone dies without a will in Washington, their property is divided in a process called “intestate succession.” Basically, this means that the state gives your property to your closest relatives, based on a formula codified in state law.
Intestate succession can have undesired consequences. For example, you may assume that all your property will go to your spouse. But if your parents and siblings are still living, they might get a share too.
If you have a blended family, you may be surprised to learn that your stepchildren won’t inherit anything, unless you’ve legally adopted them. If you have a half-sibling that you’ve never met, he or she could have the same claim to your estate as a sibling you grew up with.
Most people want something different than what intestate succession provides. The best way to protect your loved ones is to get a will in place.
So where do you start?
In truth, creating a will is not particularly difficult or expensive. For most people, the hardest part is finding the time and the motivation to take the first step.
The best way to start is to find an estate planning attorney who you trust, and who you feel comfortable talking to. Your attorney will have a conversation with you to get an understanding of your goals and values, and will then recommend an estate plan that meets your needs and fits your budget.
It is never too late or too early to start thinking about estate planning. You can always update or supplement your plan as circumstances change. If you don’t have a will in place, it is in your and your loved one’s best interest to make it a priority.