An alarming number of Americans, including the late pop icon Prince, do not have a will. Here's why it's so important to put your affairs in order now, not later.
It’s been nearly two weeks since American pop superstar Prince was found dead in his Minnesota home. While fans continue to mourn the loss of the iconic singer-songwriter, Prince’s estate — worth an estimated $300 million — is in limbo because the singer didn’t have a will (at least not one that’s been discovered).
It turns out, Prince was in good company. According to a survey by Rocket Lawyer, 64 percent of Americans don’t have a will.
Now Prince’s surviving family members — a sister and five half siblings — are seeking control of his estate, the Prince Brand, which includes his record label, and the contents of a vault of music at his home believed to contain thousands of unreleased songs.
St. Paul-based wealth management firm Bremer Trust was appointed by the court Monday to serve as the temporary special administrator for the estate, CNN reports.
Minnesota law states that if a person dies without a will and no surviving spouse, children, parents or grandchildren, the next heir becomes the siblings of the deceased. There’s no legal distinction between full siblings and half siblings.
If no will is found for Prince, determining how his assets should be split among his family members could get ugly, according to CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos.
“It’s one thing to divvy up dollars among six people, but how do you divide a guitar collection, or ‘Purple Rain,’ or an unfinished piece of music, among heirs? And what if they don’t agree on how to use or sell those things?”
Don’t end up like Prince and countless other Americans who put off their estate planning until it’s too late. Here are four reasons you need to stop delaying and create a will now:
- Children: If you have minor children at home, creating a will is a must. It’s the only document that allows you to name guardians for your children. If you don’t have a will, the state will decide who gets custody of your children. “Not having one once you have kids is unconscionable,” writes Forbes contributor Jean Chatzky.
- Your stuff: Creating a will allows you to dictate how your stuff gets divvied up after you die. For example, if you don’t want your cousin Hank to get the watch your grandfather left you, you can say that in your will, according to Rocket Lawyer.
- Charitable help: If there are certain causes or charities you support, you can use your will to direct part of your money to those groups. Forbes says that during his life Prince “was a quiet but powerful charitable force, donating millions to schools, thousands to a local library, and putting technology in the hands of kids who wouldn’t otherwise have had access to it.” Because Prince didn’t have a will, there’s no guarantee that any part of his money will be used to support those types of causes going forward.
- It’s easy: You can easily create a will online for $34 to $70 using WillMaker, LegalZoom.com or Nolo.com, according to Forbes. If you have more complicated assets or you need to make sure someone is cut out of your will, you may have to meet with an estate-planning attorney.
Check out “Do It Now: The Essentials of Estate Planning” for more tips on leaving your affairs in order so you don’t leave a mess for your loved ones.
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