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Why Prince dying without a will should be a lesson learned

In late April 2016, the legendary music icon Prince was found dead in his Chanhassen, Minnesota, home. At his compound known as “Paisley Park,” the singer was found unresponsive in his elevator and then pronounced dead on the scene. While many fans mourn his passing at the all-too early age of fifty-seven, the story now turns to what he has left behind: his legacy, unreleased vault of music and vast estate now estimated at over $250 million. However, there is one big problem.

Despite all search efforts, the singer died without a will.   Simply identifying his heirs has taken over 8 months.  The court appointed administrator is charging the estate substantial sums that could have been avoided by simply taking a few hours to write down his wishes.

Dying without a will can become a very complicated legal matter even for those with a modest estate. However, Prince’s estate is vast and still growing, as he had multiple real estate investments in the Twin Cities area, not to mention the undetermined value of his unreleased music.

Under Minnesota intestacy laws (similar to many other state laws), when a person passes without a will, the probate court first looks to a surviving spouse, then to any descendants and then to the parents. However, Prince had no spouse or children. The next step is to look to his parents or descendants of his parents. Since his parents are no longer alive, the controversy now boils down to his surviving sister and other half-siblings.

It makes you wonder why someone as famous and well-off as Prince did not have a will. What did his attorneys and financial advisors think when he probably refused to create an estate plan? Or are many of his assets strategically placed in accounts or real estate that will make it less-complex? Unfortunately, these are still questions that do not have answers.

In the mean time, Prince’s estate could end up in probate court for many years and should be a lesson to anyone without a will. No matter who you are or how many assets you have, you do not want to leave behind a legacy where loved ones are burdened with complex probate or burdensome litigation. You should consult an experienced estate planning and probate administration lawyer like Richard A. Lewis today.  Your loved ones will be glad you did.

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