On April 21, 2016, the world tragically lost a brilliant musician – Prince Rogers Nelson. Prince was an innovative artist who worked tirelessly to become a master of his craft. For someone to have worked so hard to build his legacy and meticulously control every aspect of his music, it came as a shock that he passed away seemingly without a single written document expressing how he wanted his legacy handled after his death. Essentially, Prince gave carte blanch control to whomever will take over his estate.
Prince’s simple oversight is now causing a myriad of problems that may draw attention away from the incredible life he lived. There are countless individuals coming forward to claim a stake in his estate, and his estate will not likely be resolved any time soon. Moreover, his estate, valued at approximately $300 million or more, will now be responsible for both state and federal estate taxes that will total well over $100 million.
However, the monetary impact of not having an estate plan may not have troubled Prince as much as the impact it will have on his music and legacy. Without a written directive outlining what Prince wanted done with his music, especially his music that has never been released, Prince no longer has any control over what is done with his art. Rather, he ultimately relinquished control over his music to someone yet to be determined by the court. Is Prince turning over in his grave knowing his music that he worked so hard to perfect and protect is now completely out of his control? What would Prince think if the person(s) who ultimately gain control over his estate decide to allow all of Prince’s music to be streamed?
Maybe Prince thought he had more time as he was still a young man when he passed away, but unfortunately, we all now know that we are not entitled to life. On the other hand, fortunately for us, the dilemma of Prince’s estate reminds us the importance of having an estate plan in place. Prince famously stated “A strong spirit transcends rules.” While Prince undeniably has a strong spirit, it cannot transcend probate or tax laws. Regardless, no matter the final outcome of Prince’s estate, may Prince rest in peace knowing his music had a positive impact on the world, and it will continue to have a positive impact on generations to come.
Meet John and Jane. John and Jane are both 33 years-old and have two children, Jack age 3 and Jake age 1. John and Jane presently do not own a home, but they are saving for a down payment on a house. They hope to buy a house within the next couple years, and they have saved a sizable amount.
John and Jane want a date night, and they need it desperately. Raising kids is hard work! They ask Jane’s parents to babysit, and John and Jane go out for a nice dinner – the first in a very long time. John and Jane have a wonderful time, and they are finally able to enjoy a glass of wine without any distractions. Tragically and unpredictably, they are both killed in a car accident on their way home.
What will happen to their children? You see, John and Jane would have wanted John’s sister to take custody of their children. John’s sister also has a young family of her own, and they both thought John’s sister would agree to take on guardianship. While Jane had two brothers, both brothers are still in college living the carefree and fun college life. Neither are prepared to take on such responsibility. Maybe one day, but definitely not now.
Unfortunately, John and Jane did not have a will, trust, or any other arrangements prepared. There is nothing expressing their wishes. As a result, the court will now have to get involved to determine who gets custody of the children. Even more surprising, John’s sister has no interest in take on two more children. She just doesn’t have the resources for two more. Jane’s brothers both decline custody as they are woefully unprepared to take on two children. The only people in John and Jane’s life who are willing to take on this responsibility are Jane’s parents who are both older and long retired.
What happens to their assets, including the savings for their home? Without a will or trust, the assets will be distributed according to state law, and John and Jane’s estate will have to go through probate. Probate can take anywhere between a few months to a couple years.
Circumstances like this may be rare, and we certainly hope it does not happen to you. However, we at Horner & Park strongly believe that families with young children should be prepared in case anything like this should ever happen. Contact us today and allow us to explain what we can do to help you. Regardless of whether or not you call us at Horner & Park, we sincerely hope you take action to put some plan in place to protect your children and ensure your wishes are honored.