ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Lessons Everyone Can Learn From Prince’s Estate

The untimely death of Prince Nelson, better known as “Prince,” the famously talented and controversial musician, songwriter, performer, businessman, philanthropist, and pop star who passed on April 21, 2016 at age 57, either without a Will or without a Will which could be found, brings to mind complications that are often seen with failing to plan.

Prince’s estate demonstrates the importance of having a Will and –less obviously – the importance of storing the Will in a place that it can be found readily at your death. Most of us do not have an enormous estate with a “music vault,” or one worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but many of us have significant holdings and are quite private in where we keep important documents. While this privacy serves well to prevent identity theft and other modern harms, the Prince estate shows just how difficult it can be to locate important items without a road map. For this very reason, we frequently advise clients to keep copies of their estate planning documents in an accessible place, such as a file cabinet or safe. Furthermore, the key or combination to these storage locations need to be available to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.

Not drafting a Will, or having your Will in a location where it may not be found, means you could be considered intestate – no Last Will and Testament - when you die. Where an estate is subject to intestate administration, the easy things become complicated. The desires and wishes of the deceased individual are not important to the court, but rather the property is administered in accordance with state statute. The statutes cannot fully contemplate the relationships that may have existed (or not existed) between the deceased and his relatives. Intestacy statutes determine heirs based on their degree of familial relationship to the deceased. Accordingly, intestate estates often invite distant relatives to “come out of the woodwork.” For example, a previously unknown individual who purported to be related to Prince filed to be considered an heir of Prince.

On a more nuts and bolts level, an administrator needs to be appointed for the estate, and other basic procedural issues need to be resolved. Basic issues such as these often necessitate court hearings where intent has not been clearly reduced to writing via a Will or Trust. In the context of Prince’s estate, the expense of such proceedings is well worth it, but for a modest estate such proceedings can exhaust the resources available.

While the Prince estate offered some insight into some of the issues that arise when a Will has not been found, the important thing to remember is that, when a plan has not been made, the wishes of the decedent are immaterial. Most of us do not like considering our death. But all of us have some idea of where we would like things to end up at our death. I have yet to meet a client, when prompted with the question “Where would you like your estate to go at your death?” who responded, “To pay the court costs and lawyer’s fees for an expensive estate contest.”

There are estimates that nearly 60% of Americans have not executed a Will, and it is certainly not the case that all of their wishes will agree with the statutes of their home state.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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