Prince was an extraordinarily powerful musician, capable of incorporating elements of funk, rock, pop, soul and R&B into his music. He was one of the bestselling artist of all times, selling over 100 million records worldwide- skyrocketing his estimated net worth to somewhere between $150 – $300 million.
With a fortune so vast that he could purchase 110 Bugatti Veyrons on a whim, or nearly all the ad space for next year’s Super Bowl, how is it possible that someone so smart and powerful could die without a Last Will and Testament?
It is estimated between 30% – 65% of Americans will die without a will, including the likes of celebrities, high profile businessmen, etc. History is filled with scandals and family feuds that occur when an individual or a married couple dies without a proper will in place. Take for example Howard Hughes.
In the mid 1900’s, Howard Hughes was the quiet version of the Donald Trump of his era – an eccentric billionaire with an estimated net worth of $3.8 billion dollars in today’s terms.
He died without a will in 1976, and state intestacy laws determined how his assets would be divided. Hughes had no immediate family or descendants, leaving behind his vast fortune that took nearly 30 years to sort out.
Various parties from Hughes past, including wannabe wives, supposed children, distant cousins and other institutions began to fight for his estate. Eventually, the majority of his wealth went to his institution but not before over 1,000 people (including 200+ distant relatives) took a sizable chunk.
On April 25, 2016, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, filed paperwork asking a Minnesota court to appoint a trust company, in order to oversee the division of Prince’s assets due to a lack of a will. The Purple Rain singer had no living children or parents. He had been married and divorced twice, has five half-siblings, and his closest relative is his sister, Tyka.
When an individual dies without a will, the state of that person’s probate court will determine how the estate will be divided. In Prince’s particular state, Minnesota, it makes no distinction between half and full siblings when it comes to inheritance. Thus, the probate court will most likely evenly divide his estate between his surviving sister and his half siblings.
Nonetheless, it could take many years to sort out Prince’s estate. Disputes concerning asset allocation between siblings, ex-wives trying to lay claim, and many other tedious aspects of probate court- will surely elongate the process.
Take for example Prince’s record royalties. When Prince suddenly passed away, his records’ sales began an upward trajectory to the heavens themselves. In the past week alone, Prince’s music sales saw a 16,000% increase. Thus, many more problems may arise.
How will his future royalties be divided between his heirs? What if five out of the six heirs wants to sell their royalty rights to a third party? Further, how will future proceeds of unreleased songs that Prince stashed away in his recording studio be divided?
Now, Minnesota probate court will eventually figure all this out, but one thing is certain – Prince left behind a colossal inheritance for the people he loved, but he may have also created the perfect storm; his family members may be torn apart fighting over his money and property.
If you are reading this today, take this opportunity to self reflect on how you envision your property being distributed when you die. The simple fact of the matter is, we live in a world where there are so many dumb ways to die, that death could be around the corner for all of us.
It doesn’t matter if you have a quarter of a million dollars, many millions, or even a billion – the fear of death itself stops many individuals from creating a will. Thus, instead of viewing a will as your death certificate, view it as an opportunity to protect the people you love.
A properly written will does not only protect your family members, but allows you to envision your own financial legacy. You are able to sculpt that vision into written words, what we call a will, and use that power to distribute any remaining assets how you deem fit.
There are many important parts to a will, and EIP wealth management firm AtlasMark Financial can help direct the process and find you a good estate lawyer.
Prince was one of the best musical talents of his generation but failed to properly plan for his death. Use this opportunity to learn from Prince’s mistake and if you haven’t already – draft or update your will if it has been awhile.