Looking back on 2016, it seems like there were a lot of untimely celebrity deaths. Two of them stand out as showing that the need for a will does not vary with age.
In April of 2016, singer Prince died suddenly at the age of 57. Despite having an estate estimated at $300 Million, Prince did not have a will. As a result, several people have claimed to be his child, his half-sibling, or even relatives of a man who had an alleged “father-son relationship” with Prince’s father, all in an effort to get a share of his estate. The motive is not hard to understand. Under Minnesota law, with no will, his child (or children) would inherit his entire estate, and in the absence of children, other family members will inherit.
Since he apparently had no children, and his parents are deceased, his siblings will inherit his estate. Full and half siblings will share equally. That means, even with one full sibling and seven half siblings, they each stand to inherit about $20 Million after estate taxes.
Media reports indicate that Prince was estranged from at least one of his half siblings, and perhaps two – he had a restraining order against one, and another had sued Prince for copyright infringement. Without a will, we will never know if Prince wanted his estate to go equally to his siblings, without regard to the quality of their relationship with him during his life. By failing to make a will, Prince left that decision to the Minnesota legislature, as state law determines how one’s assets are distributed upon death in the absence of a will. Any friends, other family members, or charities to whom he might have wished to make gifts will not receive them.
In addition to a will, due to the size of his estate, Prince’s heirs could have benefitted substantially if Prince had done some more advanced estate planning – potentially reducing the impact of estate taxes, and avoiding the potential for conflict among the heirs by having a structure already in place to manage the assets in his estate.
In June, actor Anton Yelchin died in an accident at the age of 27. Mr. Yelchin is famous for playing Mr. Chekov in recent Star Trek movies. Mr. Yelchin’s estate was reportedly valued at $1.7 Million.
Being under 30, Mr. Yelchin may have thought he was too young to need a will, but the tragic accident that took his life in his own driveway proves that no one who has reached adulthood is too young for will. Although Mr. Yelchin was still young, he had assets, and he missed the opportunity to choose how they would be distributed upon his death. Because he was unmarried, apparently had no children, and had no siblings, his entire estate will go to his parents. While this may well have been Mr. Yelchin’s intent, he also may have wanted to see some of his assets go to other family members, friends or charities, which he could have accomplished through a will.
Lucent Law Makes Getting a Will Easy
We’re seven months away from August, which is “Make a Will Month,” but as far as we at Lucent Law are concerned, every month should be Make a Will Month. And making a will has never been easier–through our will packages Lucent Law can help individuals or married couples put together all of the basic estate planning documents that every adult should have, with only one trip to our office to sign documents (or for more distant clients, one trip to sign in the presence of a notary). These packages not only include a will, but also include a healthcare power of attorney and an advance healthcare directive – both vital documents that will help ensure that your wishes are honored with regard to your healthcare, even if you are unable to communicate those wishes at the time. The will package for married couples also includes an optional community property agreement. Used in the appropriate circumstance, a community property agreement can help avoid the need for a probate when the first spouse dies.
Just Do It
If you don’t have a will, please make one right away, whether you do it through Lucent Law or elsewhere. Estate planning not only helps ensure your wishes are observed–it is also a gift to the loved ones you leave behind.
Want to see how your assets will be distributed if you die without a will as a resident of Washington? Take a look at our article What Happens If I Die Without a Will in Washington? Check back soon for an article focusing on Idaho residents.