Rich and Famous Does Not Equate to Prepared
In April of this year, musician and performance artist Prince died. Hailed for his innovation in the music industry, famed for his flamboyant presence, and loved for his range of music styles, Prince appeared to have it all. But he did not. In fact, Prince was lacking the one thing that would best protect his estate and intellectual property for all time – a Last Will and Testament. As an estate attorney in Philadelphia, I can only reiterate the importance of having a will.
Prince was 57 at the time of his death. Too young to think or worry about a will? Hardly. In fact, given his assets, a will or some other legal estate planning instrument would have allowed Prince to have the last word about what is to happen with his music and his full estate, and he would have been helping those he loved the most in settling his final matters. While most of us are not nearly as wealthy as Prince was, we probably own property or have family members we want to protect at the time of our death.
Beyond establishing how your estate will be distributed, the reasons for having a proper estate plan are many. Through a Last Will and Testament, you can accomplish the following:
- Determine who will care for your minor children;
- Allow minor children to inherit from you without having the need to have the Courts involved;
- Minimize the amount of death taxes to be paid;
- Disinherit those you do not want to receive any money or property they might otherwise have inherited;
- Designate tax-free donations to causes you support or give gifts to individuals of your choice.
When you prepare a Will while still alive, you prepare for your desired handling of your affairs once you die and avoid the chance that your estate and loved ones experience an increased expense and delay in being able to administer your estate.
When a person dies without a Will, the probate process requires the state of residence to distribute the property according to its own succession laws. States laws vary widely, but they generally distribute property to the closest, most immediate family members first, starting with a surviving spouse. If there is no spouse, then assets go to the children. If there are no children, the state’s succession laws determine the order in which the estate is passed down to the parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, half-siblings, etc.—down to distant cousins and other relatives. Lastly, if no heirs are found, the estate and all its assets go to the state that the deceased person was residing at the time of their death.
Sources indicate that approximately 55 percent of adults in the United States do not have a Last Will and Testament. Should they die today, they will, in legal terms, die intestate. The state’s laws will govern how that person’s assets will be divided, even those with the most sentimental value, in the order required by the law and without regard for the deceased individual’s own personal wishes.
As an experienced Philadelphia estate attorney I regularly advise and encourage clients to protect their interests, their assets, and their family and loved ones. Having a Will and estate plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing you have all the legal protection you need. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 267.399.3710 for your free initial consultation on how I can assist you in preparing your Last Will and Testament, Living Will, and Durable Power of Attorney at a cost that is affordable to you.