The cause of Prince's death remains a mystery. The results of the autopsy are not scheduled to be released for another few weeks, but preliminary reports note that the musician was not the victim of foul play or suicide. As unfortunate as his early death is, it provides a number of estate planning lessons to fans throughout the country. Three of the more valuable take-away tips include:
- Make a will. A recent report in the Star Tribune, a reputable newspaper from the Minneapolis area where Prince resided, notes that heirs and lawyers continue to search for a will for Prince's estate. So far, it appears that the megastar died without an estate plan. This results in his estate going into a process that is referred to in the legal world as intestacy. In these cases, state law dictates how the assets are distributed. This generally goes by bloodline, distributing assets to the closest family members.
- Be clear about who you want as your beneficiaries. Updates of new reported family members are surfacing. At least one individual has attempted to join in as an heir to Prince's estate, claiming that she is a half-sibling to the musician. Since state law distributes assets to the closest family members, it is wise to make sure any deviations are very, very clear. If you wish to have certain siblings or family members included and other excluded, or specifically state that any unknown at the time of death not inherit, it can help to note this in an estate plan. Specifically who you want to be your beneficiaries and even listing exactly which assets you want to be passed to each beneficiary can help ensure your estate is transferred as you wish.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. It is often best to communicate your wishes to those who are affected by the estate. Keeping the plans a secret can lead to contentious situations. In some cases, loved ones may believe they are attempting to meet your wishes. Being clear on what those wishes are can avoid confusion, frustration and additional expense of potential courtroom battles.
Unfortunately, a large segment of the population is following Prince's lead by failing to put together a will to outline how their estate should be handled. Those who find themselves in these situations and are attempting to navigate the probate process are wise to seek legal counsel.