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Prince dies without a Will….Purple Rain??????

On Behalf of | May 3, 2016 | Estate Planning

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow; I never meant to cause you any pain;…I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain. “ Prince, The Revolution.

After the untimely death of the talented, legendary, and prolific musician, Prince, the internet was filled with articles that seemed to express some amazement that Prince apparently died without a Will. I presume the amazement is connected to the fact that Prince was a successful artist with enough money to purchase estate planning. Indeed, most presume he had the kind of money that should have been protected by an estate plan for the sake of his potential beneficiaries.

Not having an estate plan in place (Will and/or Trust, Powers of Attorney – financial and medical) can certainly cause your loved ones more sorrow and pain in addition to all the sorrow and pain of your demise. It leads to uncertainty about how your assets are going to be divided, when they are going to be divided, and whether your assets are going to the people you loved and cared for by during your life.

Prince was evidently involved in giving to charitable and social causes (although his Jehovah’s Witness religion does not permit its members to speak about their good works). A number of articles have focused on Prince’s quiet philanthropy. I am pretty sure some of the causes would have greatly benefitted from a remembrance in Prince’s Will had he chosen to remember them in an estate plan.

What does happen when you die without a Will (Intestate)? Clients have expressed concern that the government takes your money. Not exactly true, however if no heirs can be identified, then the State does take the money.

The law dictates who gets your money and how it is divided. Using Prince as an example, he had one full sister and five living half siblings (and two predeceased half siblings). He had no wife (divorced I believe) and no children. I will only address Pennsylvania law in this blog post, and be aware that laws generally differ from one state to another.

Had Prince been a resident of Pennsylvania, which he was not, his siblings and half siblings would be treated the same in terms of succession (inheritance). Prince’s Estate would be divided as equally as possible among all the siblings and half siblings. Further if his predeceased half siblings had children, those children would take their parent’s share of the inheritance. So, in Prince’s case, his sister and five half siblings would get 1/6th of Prince’s estate. If the predeceased half-siblings each have children, then the estate would be divided by eight.

The two predeceased half-siblings’ shares would not be equally split amongst the children of those two half-siblings, instead they are first split first to the half-siblings and those shares apportioned to their children. For example: If his one predeceased half-sibling had two children, those children would equally share in that portion of the inheritance. And if the other predeceased half-sibling had three children, they would equally share in that portion of the inheritance.

While, in Prince’s situation, the result in Pennsylvania would not necessarily be an unfair one, there could be an unfair result in other situations without an Estate plan in place. If, for example, a person who is divorced and remarried with children from both marriages dies without a Will and allows the intestacy laws to split up their estate, there could be a very unfair result.

Further, what if Prince really did not have a relationship with some of his siblings or half-siblings. Maybe Prince felt closer to a non-relative than some relatives. Or maybe he felt that the causes he supported during his lifetime were more in need of his generosity than family and/or friends. Sadly, we (and Prince’s potential beneficiaries) will never know if that was the case.

In the meantime, reports state that a special administrator will be (or has been) appointed to take care of or administer Prince’s Estate. Prince’s siblings will have to wait and permit the administrator to go through the probate process. That is, the administrator’s job will be to gather the assets (determine what and where they are), pay the inheritance and/or estate taxes on those assets, and follow all the procedures for distributing the assets to the proper beneficiaries.

There will be legal fees and no doubt court costs (some of which may have been avoided) and the administrator does not do their work for free. If the administrator is a bank or trust company, or some similar entity, the fees could be much greater than if Prince had appointed one of his siblings or a friend to handle these affairs. If there are challenges to the way the Administrator does things or divides the assets, then there will be more legal fees and court costs.

The beneficiaries could be waiting years for their inheritance. And obviously Prince’s assets will be spent on administering the estate, which is typical, but would be a lot less expensive if there would be an estate plan in place, which would include instructions from Prince as to how this was to be done.

You do not want to cause your loved ones any more sorrow and pain than they should have to experience when you are gone. You cared for them and your causes while you were living. Do not hesitate to make sure your wishes are carried out after your death. Your wishes are called an Estate plan.

The preceding article was written for entertainment purposes only. No information contained in this blog shall be considered legal advice and most importantly shall not be relied on by any individual. The views expressed here are the views of Sandra Liberatori, Esquire, only and not necessarily the views of Rick Linn, LLC or any other entity. If you are looking to discuss your options with regards to Estate Planning, please contact Attorney Liberatori at 610-850-9036 ext. 3 to schedule a free consultation today, and mention you read this blog post!