Estates Made Easy with Corinne Cantwell Heggie
My music app is neither organized nor hip. It drives my oldest son nuts when he is deejay for dinner dishes. Thankfully, his annoyance in no way clouds his ability to select a Prince track from one of the many untitled playlists I, a music liker, not lover, have "curated."
One night I asked, "Why Prince?" My son's response, "His flow is fire."
And I cannot say I disagree with my oldest son's answer. Prince's hairstyles always met the mood of his album.
However, you know what is not fire? The fact that Prince died without a will. Why? Because years after Prince left this earth, a Minnesota judge was left trying to determine what assets Prince owned, who was entitled to Prince's estate, and how much taxes Prince's estate owed Minnesota and the United States.
The case slogged through the court while creditors and third parties vied for their share and attorneys billed by the hour to answer the court's questions, all to the detriment of Prince's family and beneficiaries. This is because the government and attorneys got paid first, family and beneficiaries second.
Regardless of whether you love, like, or are agnostic about Prince's music, here is the take-away: get a will.
A will is a written document that lets you do two important things while you are living and before you die:
Tell the world who gets your property when you are not here.
Name an executor who will get your property to the people you want.
If you have children younger than 18, a will is where you name guardians. A will can do much more for you, your family, and your property, too. In fact, that is a great thing about having a will. It can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be, especially with a lawyers' help.
It is key to involve an attorney and reduce your urge to do it yourself or even leverage technology. Why? Because if you DIY or use an app, your will, or any other legal document, runs the risk of not working. What does that mean? your will could be vulnerable to a challenge in court when you die because it does not comply with state laws. And, of course, if you do nothing, there is uncertainty about who gets the property you worked hard in your lifetime to earn.
Prince's no-will strategy is popular. Former Zappos CEO Ken Hsieh died in 2020 without a will, joining the company of Prince, Aretha Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Howard Hughes, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Picasso, and millions more.
Studies uniformly prove the no-will strategy's popularity. Caring.com's "2021 Willis and Estate Planning Study" reported that, despite COVID-19, the overall percentage of Americans with a will has not changed. (See caring.com/estate-planning/wills-survey) (last visited 11:20am April 20).
I am hopeful the last year will help flatten the no-will strategy curve. In the meantime, don't be like Prince. Get a will.
Corinne Cantwell Heggie is a principal of the Wochner Law Firm LLC and safeguards individuals, families, and business owners from costly court battles, asset loss, and taxes with wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Corinne is the immediate past President of the Women's Bar Association of Illinois and a board member of the North Suburban Bar Association. She and her family are parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and are active in scouting.
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