Outrageous Prince Story No. 1999: No Will/ May 10th, 2016
He was an otherworldly guitarist worth hundreds of millions of dollars who exhibited a gripping control over the intellectual property rights of his music, yet, when it came to his estate, Prince was just like most of us: He didn’t have a will.
His estate, along with his vault of never-heard-before music and the royalties from his trademarks, will be administered by a wealth-management firm.
It won’t be simple. His six siblings most likely will inherit what’s left of his estate after the federal and Minnesota state governments take more than half via estate taxes, known as “the death tax.” The potential for family issues is huge—chalk up more money for attorneys.
Unlike Prince, you’re still here and can decide who will be in charge of making sure kids, your precious memories, and your valuables make it into the right hands when you depart. That person is your executor—the person you name in your will.
It’s neither expensive nor complicated to make a will.
There are two easy ways to get started:
- Least expensive: Use an online resource like WillMaker, which lets you do it yourself much like using Quicken to file taxes. Or use sites that guide you like RocketLawyer or LegalZoom. Costs range from $55 for just a will, to $139 for a full basic estate plan (living will, durable powers of attorney for health care and finance, plus the will). This works well if your situation is uncomplicated.
- Most expensive: Use an estate planning attorney—and possibly a CPA—for a full plan. Cost: $500 to $1,000. Your attorney will help you navigate a simple will. A CPA will help if you need more complicated estate planning.
Keep in mind
- If you use an online resource, make sure you have your will properly witnessed before you sign it.
- ·Consider a full basic estate plan so that you can name who will make your health-care decisions if you become incapacitated, know your end-of-life care preferences, handle your money, and so forth.
- Choose an executor carefully. It’s an important job with many responsibilities, chief among them distributing your property and assets in accordance with your wishes. In addition, name a digital executor—the person who will have passwords to access your computer, email, and social media accounts.
- Consider funeral and legacy planning, which will make things easier and less stressful for your family.
- Stay on top of changes—don’t put your will in a drawer for 10 years and forget about it. Situations such as divorce, remarriage, new children, grandkids, and new state laws if you move, affect how your will. Put it on your calendar to revisit every three years.
It’s not that hard to make sure things happen the way you want them to. Don’t leave it to chance, because if you do, you’ll be letting the courts decide.
By not making these decisions yourself, not only could your heirs miss out on what is rightfully theirs, but as is the case with Prince, you put important decisions about the legacy of your life’s work in the hands of strangers.