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01 Jun 2016

Prince died without a Will — rich or poor, people still get it wrong

It has been just over a month since the musician Prince passed away and whilst his lawyers are still searching for a Will, it has so far proved fruitless. It is hard to believe that a multi-millionaire who was surrounded by lawyers and managers did not find the time to write a Will but sadly this appears to be the case.

In early May, a Minnesota judge appointed a corporate trust company to temporarily oversee his estate, saying the emergency appointment was necessary as immediate decisions need to be made about his business interests — such as who owns his music!

In this situation, where tensions are running high amongst family members, there are obvious benefits to appointing a neutral party to divide up the estate. You may have read that Prince’s half-sister Tyka Nelson had originally applied to be appointed executor of the musician’s estate and have control of his business interests. However, according to CNN, the first meeting between all the siblings devolved into a shouting match. Sadly we see this all too often.

As Prince had no spouse or children, under Minnesota law, his estate should be divided equally between his five living half-siblings (two from his mother and three from his father). Prince was notoriously careful about controlling his intellectual property – who will receive the rights to his unpublished music now? Who will have commercial rights to his image through things like T-shirts and posters? Without a Will, we will never know who Prince would have chosen to look after these things and his siblings will have to decide amongst themselves.

In New Zealand, we have similar legislation. The Administration Act 1969 dictates how an estate is distributed if a person dies without a Will and it is very prescriptive. For example, if you are married with children, your partner will receive the first $155,000 of your estate and third of the balance and your children will receive the other two thirds, this is held in trust until they are over 20-years old. This may well not be what you wanted. By having a current Will in place you will ensure your wishes are clear, can be followed and will support your loved ones in the way you intended at what is likely to be the worst time of their lives.

Which of your self-employed clients have a business that needs to be considered in their estate planning?

Make your Will today and ensure your say is heard.

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