Have You Seen Prince’s Will?

Prince (Rogers Nelson) died last week (April 21, 2016). There have been endless articles about the music legend, ranging from his love of religion to how his eccentricities made him a global music phenomenon.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I was a Prince fan. He was such an odd character, and his music was so different, that it is hard not to feel a sense of loss from his passing.

But that’s the fan perspective. From the estate planning perspective, things are about to get very interesting. Prince’s younger sister, Tyka Nelson, said in a court filing on Tuesday (April 26, 2016), that Prince died without a Will. Ms. Nelson asked the court to appoint the St. Paul-based Bremer Bank temporary authorization over Prince’s affairs, calling the situation “an emergency.”

I personally have a hard time believing that Prince died without some Will or Trust. Prince was known to be a savvy businessperson, and the thought of his leaving his estate to the whims of Minnesota intestate law are unthinkable.

In 2015, Prince’s estate made $55 million. He owned properties in Minnesota estimated to be worth $27 million. Moreover, Prince has a massive collection of songs that he never released. Most estimates have Prince’s estate valued over $100 million, but those are early estimates. It could be worth MUCH more.

Who is going to handle all of this? Who is going to sift through all of Prince’s unreleased songs and decide which ones to release? Who is going to manage the royalties from his current songs on the radio? Who is going to manage the upkeep of his properties? How could he not have planned for this eventuality?

Under Minnesota intestate law (i.e., the default estate laws for Minnesota when there is no Will), all of Prince’s assets would be divided between his sister and his half-siblings, assuming he was not married and had no children. That’s a huge windfall for people who might not be used to vast sums of wealth, and a situation that is ripe for conflicts and lawsuits. I’ve seen people fight over $50,000 as much as they do over $500 million. And they will fight, assuming there was no plan in place for them. Prince should have created trusts for his family to protect them from themselves.

This same principle holds true for those who live in New Jersey and New York. Start asking yourself: do you have up-to-date estate documents? What will happen to your assets when you’re gone? What will happen to your intellectual property after you’re gone? Will your children inherit a windfall because you have no trusts in place to protect them from themselves?

Prince died at 57. He was young. I can’t believe he didn’t have a Will or Trust. But if the rumors and court papers are true, we could be in for a long fight ahead. Stay tuned.

If you have any estate planning questions, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or contact alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

Paul Walker’s Will & Why It Matters

paul walker nj estate planning

The Last Will of Paul Walker

Like many celebrity deaths, Paul Walker’s passing was sudden and tragic. Known for his starring role in The Fast and the Furious movie franchise, Walker was killed on November 30, 2013 in a fiery car accident. Initially, police reports cited speeding as the cause — the Porsche Paul Walker died in was believed to be traveling at more than 100 miles per hour.

Several months later, the widow of Roger Rodas, the man driving the Porsche at the time of the crash, filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming that vehicle malfunction — and not excessive speed — caused the death of her husband and Paul Walker. In addition, Paul Walker’s father recently filed to have his son’s estate opened.

Consider the following lessons you can learn from Walker’s estate planning and last will:

  • Revocable living trusts — The probate process revealed that Walker had around $25 million in assets when he passed away. Additionally, the probate filing showed that Walker had set up a revocable living trust with his daughter, Meadow, named as the sole beneficiary. By creating a revocable living trust for Meadow, Walker ensured that probate would be much simpler and that the details of the trust would remain confidential. At the same time, setting up a revocable living trust is not always the best option for your estate plan.  It’s important to speak to an estate planning attorney to make sure you create the device that works best for you.
  • Guardianships — Another lesson we can learn from Paul Walker is the value of guardianships. In his will, Mr. Walker named his mother as guardian over his daughter Meadow. Although Meadow now lives with her own mother, if her mother passes away, becomes incapacitated or is deemed unfit, Meadow’s paternal grandmother assumes guardianship.
  • Estate planning — A common misconception about estate planning is that only those approaching the age of retirement need to worry about creating estate plans. In fact, anyone with significant assets or beneficiaries to whom he or she intends to leave assets should have a plan in place. Responsibly, Paul Walker signed his will in 2001, when he was just 28 years old.
  • Updating your will — One mistake Paul Walker made regarding his estate plan is that he never updated his will. His death came 12 years after he created the will, during which time could have decided to leave assets to his girlfriend and/or parents in addition to his daughter.

Carefully planning your estate is more than just a courtesy to your loved ones — it’s a responsibility. To ensure that your wishes are accurately and effectively carried out, seek help from a qualified attorney when preparing your will and other estate documents. Learn more about wills, trusts and probate in Springfield, Union County, or elsewhere in NJ — email Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm, at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-­236-­6457 today.

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