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We can all learn from Prince's estate planning mistakes

Recently, the world was shocked to learn of the unexpected death of the musical legend Prince. Best known for his provocative lyrics and flashy on-stage performances, Prince was also intensely private and fought fiercely to maintain ownership of and control over his music. For someone who, in his private life, shied away from the cameras; recent reports that Prince died without a will or estate plan are all the more shocking as the late-musician's private financial affairs will now become public record.

While Forbes Magazine estimates Prince's estate to be worth between $150,000 and $300,000 million, the true value is likely much greater as the artist's famed Paisley Park studio is said to contain a vault of unreleased songs. While few people have to account for the amount and complexity of assets involved in Prince's estate, important lessons can be learned from the estate planning mistakes that the enigmatic musician made.

A will is considered the most basic of all estate planning documents and everyone, regardless of age or wealth, should have one. While a will can be used to name a guardian for minor-aged children and express one's wishes with regard to how certain assets and personal belongings should be distributed, a will must still be filed in probate court and therefore becomes a public document.

To avoid the probate process, and the publicity and hassle often associated with it, a living trust may be preferable to a will alone. A trust can be used to transfer the ownership of property as well as assets. What's more, assets left in a trust are protected against legal actions filed by creditors.

Given that Prince died without a will or trust, it's likely that it will take years to settle his estate. It's also likely that legal disputes will erupt over who should own and have control over and the rights to license his music.

In fact, estate disputes often follow in cases where an individual fails to establish a comprehensive estate plan. Individuals, who wish to have control over the distribution of their assets and personal belongings, should meet with an estate planning attorney to draft a will. Likewise, in cases where an individual wants to transfer property and ensure that details related to an estate's value and the distribution of estate assets remain private; an attorney can assist in setting up a trust.

Source: Forbes, "Prince Made One Of The 4 Big Estate-Planning Mistakes," Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, April 27, 2016

Forbes, "Prince Died Without A Will. What Happens Next To His $150 Million-Plus Estate?," Natalie Robehmed, April 27, 2016

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