Every once in a while, the aftermath of a celebrity death provides yet another compelling example of the importance of estate planning. Prince Rogers Nelson, who most of us know as simply Prince, passed away on April 21, 2016. Why are we talking about this today? Because his probate proceedings just recently came to a close—over six years later.
Prince died with no estate plan in place—no will, no trust-based estate plan. His circumstances were complex. He had been married and divorced twice with no spouse at the time of his death. Prince had no children, only one full sibling, and seven suspected half-siblings—some were no longer living at the time probate was finally closed.
Prince’s estate value is around $156 million. It took over six years to close probate the estate and tens of millions of dollars in fees. Here’s how an estate plan could have changed this outcome.
1. Excessive Time to Close Out
Prince’s estate was in the probate process for over six years, from the first filing on April 26, 2016 until closure on August 5, 2022. While a number of factors come into play, including the significant size of this estate and the absence of a will, the average time to get through probate is about 12 – 18 months. If Prince had a will, this process would have been faster than six years. If Prince had a trust-based estate plan, probate would have been avoided altogether.
2. Loss of Privacy
As a public process, the details of the probate proceedings are public domain. This means that with a little research, anyone can learn the identity of Prince’s heirs as well as the assets and their value—so anyone with nefarious intent has access to this valuable information. This is true even if he had a will. Probate is a public process. But if Prince had used a trust-based estate plan, the general public would not have access to his inventory of assets and the names of his heirs.
3. Excess Administration Costs
Although this number is more difficult to ascertain, the cost of this case, between legal and administration fees, is estimated to be well into the tens of millions of dollars. A significant amount of money went to perfect strangers who were tasked with serving as executors, as well as the attorneys representing their respective clients’ interests during the lengthy probate process. While there are costs associated with administering an estate even with a will or a trust in place, the cost of administering this enormous and complex estate without an estate plan was disproportionately huge.
4. No Tax Strategy
With no estate plan in place, there was no tax strategy in place. The heirs paid a premium in taxes.
5. Lost Opportunity
Without an estate plan, the ability to choose heirs as well as who will administer an estate is lost. It’s likely that there were other people in Prince’s life besides or in addition to the half-siblings that he would have wanted to pass along some wealth to. Instead, the heirs were determined by state law. In addition, the court appointed the executor, which is a key role in determining how the assets are administered.
No matter the size of your estate, protection is key. A trust-based estate plan protects your beneficiaries from a lengthy probate process and maintains their privacy. With proper estate planning, you’re able to pass along the most wealth possible to the people you want to receive it.
Contact an Experienced Corning Estate Planning Attorney
Put yourself in the driver’s seat and take charge of your estate. We at Roth Elder Law, PLLC would be happy to help. Call us today to schedule an initial meeting at 607-962-6162 or complete this intake form and we’ll be in touch.