Advice & Features Articles

Oh, Controversy! I Hate U.

Prince’s recent death has caused many of us to reflect upon his fantastic music and mystifying personality. Like many great artists before him, Prince pushed the envelope, both personally and musically, all the while creating music and art that was ahead of its time.

He also personified the American Dream. He didn’t have much growing up, other than a remarkable musical capability. He used his unique talents to build what is an estimated $300 million estate. Then he died, abruptly and all too soon, without children and without a will.

by Colin Smith | Contributor

One of my colleagues said, “If you want to see a multimillion dollar estate disappear, watch this case.”  I agree with him entirely, but I also have to add: “Or if you want to see a family permanently scarred and torn apart.”  At the time of this writing, the family is headed to probate court in Minnesota, and according to recent news reports, they’re already arguing over the estate.  “I Hate U” indeed.  How do you divide up that unbelievable guitar collection?  Rights to the music?  Did he want his family to have it all?  What about all of his (reportedly) unreleased work?  I don’t think Prince was thinking about these things when he wrote “Controversy.”

If no estate planning took place, the IRS will get about 40% of the estate, which is about $120 million.  Wow.  That should be enough to buy every member of Congress a “Little Red Corvette.”  I don’t think that’s what this fabulous artist had in mind.

While nobody knows the exact figure, some estimates say that 55% of American adults do not have a will or any type of estate plan in place. Most Americans would make the valid point that their estate isn’t going to be worth anything close to Prince’s, and they’re correct.

But there are other valid reasons for making sure we have an estate plan.  Here are two:

1. Having an estate plan is not JUST about transferring money and belongings nor saving on taxes. Most of us have some family. Any legal argument over our estate will permanently damage relationships. That is simply the unfortunate byproduct of litigation, and I have yet to meet a client who wanted to incite division within the family.  When done properly, our estate plan expresses our financial and personal wishes to those we leave behind, even if we don’t have much money to distribute.

2. Estate planning can also protect people from themselves and others. For instance, if a 20-year-old receives a multimillion dollar inheritance, it’s a fair bet that retailers and car dealerships will see a temporary spike in their business while the beneficiary spends money to the tune of “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Partyman.”  More often than not, the deceased would have preferred the 20-year-old beneficiary to get an education or a house and save money for a rainy day.  Trusts can help accomplish that purpose.

If we put a lifetime into building a family, relationships and an estate, it’s worth a few hours of a lawyer’s time to try to ensure that they all remain intact in accordance with our wishes.

For more information or to schedule a confidential legal consultation, contact Colin Smith at colinsmithlaw.com or 972.773.9095.

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