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If some superstars don’t have wills, why should I?

The deceased rock music artist Prince is considered by many to have been a musical genius. He brokered many of his recording contracts, having little patience or interest in hiring attorneys. Along those lines, he chose not to engage in estate planning.

He died unexpectedly at 57 years old from a drug overdose. He left behind a $200 million estate following his sudden death at his Minneapolis mansion. Had he named anyone to handle his estate? No. Had he identified who he would want to inherit his estate? No. Did he specifically omit people he thought might claim to be his heirs? No. Instead, he left behind a $200 million mess.

Aretha Franklin died in 2018 and similarly neglected or chose not to engage in estate planning, even though she knew she was dying of pancreatic cancer. Her estate was in a little better shape than Prince’s because she had four readily identifiable sons. Compare these two with Michael Jackson, the so called King of Pop. He did recognize the importance of estate planning. He had a complex trust in addition to his Will which he had updated on several occasions. So which musical icon was the smartest? Prince? Aretha? Michael? If you answered Michael, you are correct.

We are all mortal. Not to be a pessimist, but we are all going to die. So why be a stick in the mud and not do a Will? Is it like the squeaking of my old Toyota Camry in the winter, where if I ignore the sound, it eventually goes away? No! The person who dies without a Will often leaves behind a mess. I don’t want to shock you, but there are those among us who prefer to leave a mess rather than confront death or disability. Don’t be like them. Don’t ignore the Toyota’s wintry cry for for recognition. Make a Will and sign it.

While a Will is a start, there are additional strategies you can employ that bypass the probate process that are a tad more 21st century. These include Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts, annuities naming residual beneficiaries, life insurance naming primary and contingent beneficiaries, deeds of real estate to the children while retaining a life estate and naming a beneficiary on retirement funds. A brokerage account allows you to designate a transfer on death (“TOD”) beneficiary. Perhaps add a child to one or more of your accounts. One or all of these strategies can be employed as part of your “estate plan.” There is always a risk that things don’t go the way your estate plan envisioned, but at least you earn a B grade for making the effort.

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