The recent death of the rock star Prince has brought to light a big problem—the musician died without any known will or "intestate." This oversight is likely to throw his estate into a long and protracted court process, further complicated by the sort of legal issues that can go along with having no direct heirs and a large extended family. Learn how a few simple steps can prevent your heirs from facing the legal complications Prince's family will have to handle.
1.) Get a will.
This is the most basic step of all. Many people familiar with Prince are surprised the singer didn't have one. He was known for being very protective of his assets, particularly regarding the rights to his artistic works. Whether you're also an artist of some sort or just have more ordinary assets, take the time to get a will made. You want to name someone specific as your executor—the person who will handle your estate with the court and see that everyone gets what they are entitled to receive—and distribute your assets however you feel appropriate to the people you love.
2.) Put the will where it can be found.
Right now, there's been no official ruling that Prince died without a will. That means that his family and the court will continue to investigate and search through his belongings while they try to locate one. In the meantime, not much can happen with his estate. If you don't leave your will where it can be located, your heirs could be in for a frustrating (and financially difficult) time. The simplest thing to do is to leave a copy in your lawyer's office, in your desk or filing cabinet at home, and with the person you chose as your executor. Also, put the original will in a safety deposit box and make sure your executor know where the key is and what bank you use. While courts prefer to use the original document, the judge may allow your estate to use a copy if the original is accidentally lost or destroyed.
3.) Periodically review the will to see if it needs to be updated.
Don't just write your will and forget it. You need to review it periodically to see if there are any updates or changes that should be made. There's no set schedule that you need to follow, especially if your life is fairly constant. However, consider updating your will if there are any major changes in your family composition, such as the births of nieces and nephews or grandchildren or great-grandchildren or a divorce or remarriage. If you named friends to receive personal items of yours, you may want to update the will every few years in order to make sure that it still reflects your current feelings.
While most people won't leave an estate as big and complicated as Prince's, your heirs can still run into unnecessary problems if you die without a will. Plus, there won't be any way to make your wishes known to the court. Take the time to contact an estate planning attorney today from a firm like Seiler & Parker PC to get started.