Must I have ‘Prince’-like Riches to Need a Will?

Last Will and Testament
When the legendary singer, songwriter and performer Prince died suddenly in 2016, he left an estate estimated to be worth between $50 and $300 million dollars – and no will. Without a spouse, living parents or children, his sister and five half siblings have been battling it out since, in one of the most complicated probate court proceedings in Minnesota history, with tens of millions of dollars being spent on fees for lawyers and consultants.

The Tribune-Democrat asked in a recent article, entitled “You Don’t Need a Prince-ly Fortune to Need a Will,” the following question: “Why would an artist who was so careful and controlling of his image and work not plan ahead to protect it?”

Alas, it is likely Prince was like the rest of us.

He was not very keen on considering a future beyond his own lifetime.

But this isn’t the only reason folks avoid estate planning. In addition to busy lives and plain-old procrastination, another common notion of more than 50% of all Americans who do not have a will is that they don’t need one. Most of us do not have millions of dollars or complex business interests like Prince, so we think estate planning is a bit much for our comparatively simple financial situations.

That is not smart thinking.

If you’re married, have children, or own property, a will drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney lets you decide how your assets will be distributed in the future.

If we’ve learned anything from the uncertainty of the past year, it’s that you can’t predict the future. But you can prepare for it.

Proper estate planning ensures that people and charities you support now will be supported even after you are gone, in the most tax-efficient way, while avoiding family strife.

Planning ahead can also address any number of possibilities that need careful consideration, like custody of your minor children and whether you would like to remain on life support.

If you die without a will or “intestate,” state law and the probate court determine how any of your assets subject to probate will be distributed.

Estate planning may take some effort and some time, but when you’re done, you’re going to feel so good that you’ll want to party like it’s 1999!

Reference: The (Johnstown, PA) Tribune-Democrat (April 17, 2021) “You Don’t Need a Prince-ly Fortune to Need a Will”