A Case for Having a Living Trust
Prince Rogers Nelson (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) died April 21, 2016 of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Prince follows a long line of celebrities who died suddenly with complicated estates, more complicated family dynamics, and no estate plan to help sort it all out.
Court and other estimates put the late musician's estate at about $200 million, but estates of this nature often can grow exponentially in the years after their death, as has been the case with the Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson estates, just to name a couple.
Dying without a living trust for anyone can cause chaos, but the death of someone with a large estate, especially with the added celebrity component can also lead to lawsuits, high taxation and unwanted publicity.
Let's Go Crazy! Prince's relationship with his family was never smooth or easy. Prince never married, nor had any recognized children of his own. His parents had children before their marriage, during their marriage and after their marriage. Prince had only one full sister and seven other half siblings, two of which have since died. Reportedly these brothers and sisters fell in and out of favor with their famous brother over the years, and several reportedly had no communication with him in over a decade.
After nearly a year, a Minneapolis judge has recently ruled that his full sister and still living half-siblings will be his heirs. This comes in the wake of a virtual circus where more than 45 people came forward in Prince's death, claiming to be his wife, children, siblings or other relatives. Some, including a Colorado prison inmate who said he was Prince's son, were ruled out through DNA testing. Others, such as a woman and girl who claimed to be Prince's niece and grandniece, had their claims rejected as a matter of law.
There have been lawsuits and appeals, and more are sure to come after the estate is finally settled as the siblings fight for advantage and control.
Prince's estate is also expected to have to pay upwards of $100 million in taxes. So now the famous musician’s estate is probably largely going to people he would not have chosen and these same people will be responsible for managing and maintaining his future legacy. Instead of his large estate going to people or causes he genuinely cared about, the government will step in and take up to half of what he left behind. How does that sound for a plan?
You don't have to be a rich celebrity without a plan to create chaos for your family. Even those of us with more modest means can create hardship and chaos for our families by not taking simple steps to plan our estates. In some cases the hardship and chaos can be worse because challenges, lawsuits and taxes can dig much deeper into the potential estate we could leave to our families.