Prince Had No Will but You Should

Musical genius Prince died on April 21, 2016 at the age of 57. His death was a complete shock to the Country. Another shock is that a celebrity worth millions did not have a Will in place to distribute his assets. On Tuesday morning, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, had filed an Emergency Petition for the appointment of a special administrator. Tyka was unaware of any Will and had no reason to believe Prince had executed any testamentary documents. The question now becomes: who are Prince’s living relatives and who will receive which asset? Since Prince was unmarried, with no children, and no living parents, his siblings will likely receive his assets in equal shares. However, without a Will, this leaves an opportunity for the siblings to fight over how to divide individual assets and what the value of each asset is.

So what exactly is a Will? A Will is a legal document that states how you want your assets distributed after you die. After you pass away, your Will is probated (or a Small Estate Affidavit is filled out if you have under $100,000 in assets), and your assets are distributed according to the wishes you set forth in your Will.

There are few legal requirements for Wills drafted in Illinois: (1) You must have capacity and be of sound mind. This means, the Testator (person whose assets are being distributed) knows what property they have and what it means to leave it to someone after death; (2) You must create a document that names beneficiaries for at least some of your property; and (3) You must sign the document and have the document signed by two witnesses and notarized by a Notary Public.

In Illinois, if one dies without a Will, your assets will go to your close relatives, if you have them, under state intestate succession laws. Under Intestate succession, if you have a living spouse, everything will pass to your living spouse. If you have living children, but no spouse, everything will pass to your children, in equal shares. If you have no living children, no living spouse, but you have living parents, everything will pass to your parents. There are many other situations that the state intestate laws provide for as well. There are also assets that transfer outside of a Will. These are assets that one owns alone or assets that are in one’s name such as life insurance proceeds (or other accounts with a beneficiary), property that is owned with someone else in a joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety, or property that have has been transferred to a living trust. As the Prince situation shows us, it is extremely important to have a Will because it helps your loved ones smoothly administer your assets after you pass away. This also decreases the chances that there will be fighting between family members about who keeps which asset. A Will is especially important for people with children as it is the best way to transfer guardianship of the children after you pass away. It is beneficial to hire an experienced estate planning attorney who can provide valuable advice and guidance to ensure your wishes are provided for and your family is protected.

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