Estate Planning Tips

Many fans of music icon Prince are still reeling from news of his death at the age of 57. Now comes news perhaps just as startling -- he reportedly had no will or other estate plan documents.

Why Was There No Estate Plan?

It's difficult to comprehend why a multi-millionaire who famously fought his record label to have control over his music would choose to have no say in what happens to the estate, which is estimated to be worth as much as $300 million. His music will no doubt continue to make money for years to come.

No one can say why Prince chose not to have an estate plan. Some people don't want to contemplate their own death. Others say they'll worry about it when they get old. Some simply don't care what happens to their assets once they're gone.

Families Can Be Torn Apart When There's No Estate Plan

By not having at least a will, you give up any say in what happens to your hard-earned money and assets. Further, you could leave your family with a potentially long, stressful, expensive mess to sort out.

That seems to be where Prince's estate is headed. Since he had no wife or living children at the time of his death, under Minnesota law, his estate is equally divided among his siblings -- regardless of what his relationship may have been with them. Since the estate is complex, they could be in court for years. Estate planning attorneys have seen even families that were previously harmonious get torn apart while fighting over money, property and businesses when a loved one's wishes weren't documented.

While each state has different laws regarding estate planning, there are some constants if a person dies without a will. Generally, the assets are split among the spouse and children. If there are neither, as in Prince's case, siblings are next in line. Of course, in this age of blended families and multiple marriages, things can get much more complex and rancorous.

For all of these reasons and more, it's wise to have an estate plan in place. It can always be amended over the years as people come and life changes occur. Even if you don't choose to leave money to your family, isn't there a non-profit organization that can put it to good use? An estate plan can be simple or complex, depending on your situation.