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What we can learn from Prince's lack of estate plan

As shocking as the death of music icon Prince last month at 57 years old was to millions of fans around the world, the reports that he seems to have left no will or other estate planning documents are also shocking to many people. Why would a multimillionaire with vast amounts of music that will earn money for years to come not have an estate plan to detail who gets his assets and the rights to his music?

Of course, one can only speculate about what his particular reasons were. However, failure to have a will is a far too common problem. The majority, and perhaps as many as almost two-thirds of Americans die "intestate," or without a will. While Prince's family and business partners may have a lengthy, expensive mess to sort out, so does any family on some level when a loved one dies intestate.

By not leaving a will, what happens to your assets depends on state law. There is a line of succession regarding what family members are entitled to an inheritance, usually starting with a surviving spouse and then children. In Prince's case, it seems as though his siblings will be dividing his fortune. Of course, people could claim to be his children, further complicating things.

Many people don't have a will because they simply don't want to contemplate their own death. Others just assume that their family will work it out. Still others simply don't care what happens to their money after they're gone. Many people simply don't believe that they don't have enough assets to bother making a will.

However, what's important to remember is that by not having a will, you put the burden and expense on your family to go through probate. Further, you basically hand over a portion of your estate to the government in fees and taxes. Lastly, you forfeit any say in what happens to whatever assets you have.

Even if it amounts to a few thousand dollars, would you rather the government get it or a youth organization, church or animal rescue group in your community that could put it to good use? A California estate planning attorney can help you draft a will and any other documents based on your own situation.

Source: CNN, "Prince's will saga: dramatic but not surprising," Danny Cevallos, April 28, 2016

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