Do I Need A Will?

By Sean D. Brady

Musician Prince died without a will and now it appears that his estate, which some estimate at approximately $300 million, will be split between his sister and his five half siblings. In addition, Prince’s estate includes a large amount of unreleased music which some estimate could add millions more to the value of the estate. How do they decide which sibling gets which unreleased songs? Who gets Prince’s little red corvette? These decisions will now be made by a court appointed administrator and the Minnesota probate court. Since Prince had no will, his intent as to where he wanted his property to go is irrelevant and his property will be distributed pursuant to Minnesota law.

If Prince had made a will, then Prince could have decided where his assets went after his death and his intent would have controlled. In addition, he could have named an executor to be in charge of his estate and in charge of passing out his assets. Since Prince had no will, his estate will be distributed to his heirs as determined by Minnesota law, regardless of whether or not that is what Prince wanted.

Did Prince want to treat his sister and his five half siblings differently? Did Prince want to give any of his property to a non-relative friend? Did he want to give any of his property to his church or another charity? If he did, then he should have made a will. Prince’s death without an estate plan is a reminder that having a will is important.

A will allows you to:
1. Control where your property goes upon your death;
2. Give property to non-relatives;
3. Give property to charities;
4. Exclude specific relatives;
5. Name a guardian of your minor children;
6. Delay distributions to minors through a testamentary trust;
7. Name an executor who will be in charge of the estate;
8. Control the disposition of your remains; and
9. Have an opportunity to potentially do some estate tax planning.

If you have no will, then:
1. You lose control over where the property in your estate will go.
2. Your estate will be distributed pursuant to the state statute;
3. Non-relatives will not receive any gifts from your estate;
4. Charities will not receive any gifts from your estate;
5. Minors will receive inherited property at age 18;
6. An administrator will be put in charge of the estate without your input; and
7. Assets are distributed without taking into account any estate tax planning.

A major goal of estate planning is that your assets go where you wanted them to go upon your death. Accordingly, a will as part of a comprehensive estate plan is always a good idea.

If you would like assistance in creating or revising a will and your estate plan, please contact Sean D. Brady at (815) 730-9500.

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