The instructive value of Prince's ongoing estate planning war

OK, perhaps we should concede at the outset of this post that stratospheric pop star Prince did not bequeath an estate planning war in the wake of his recent passing.

Indeed, though, acrimony and massive uncertainty have prevailed regarding Prince’s financial empire following his death.

A commentator in a recent article chronicling how Prince’s estate planning could have been handled better calls the current situation “astonishing.”

And that astonishment centrally proceeds from the apparent lack of a will setting forth the star’s planning aspirations and intentions.

No will means no information forthcoming on the appointment of heirs, the distribution of property and the ongoing management of Prince’s massive entertainment empire. The lack of other relevant planning instruments (applicable trusts, for example) means the loss of privacy that might have otherwise prevailed in a matter that is now under an enduring public spotlight.

As the aforementioned commentator notes, things could have — indeed, should have — played out far differently from what is now the case.

Had Prince timely secured the help of a proven trusts and estates attorney, for example, that professional could have worked in tandem with experienced legal counsel from the music realm “to integrate entertainment assets into an estate plan.” That accomplishment would obviously be key in the case of someone like Prince, in light of his vast catalog of protected creative works.

And, of course, a soundly structured will would have gone far toward eliminating the confusion that now exists. It would have appointed executors, named heirs, listed guardians and otherwise set forth Prince’s clear intentions across a wide spectrum of matters.

Trusts, too, could have played a critically important role in setting expectations, distributing wealth and maintaining privacy. Executed powers of attorney would have ensured — in the event that Prince had not passed — that trusted persons would step in to make key decisions regarding health care and finances in the event of incapacity.

As is so often the case, a lack of planning by a high-profile figure commanding great wealth ultimately morphs into an extended media excursion into what went wrong and how things might have turned out better.

Prince’s apparent lack of planning is a prime example of that. Perhaps the current state of swirling uncertainty regarding the star’s empire will encourage more people to timely turn to estate planning and ensure that they have taken reasonable steps to address the future.

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