If you’ve read or watched the news lately, you know that pop star Prince didn’t have a will when he died unexpectedly. It is assumed that his family will be in court for years fighting over his assets just like other celebrities before him. Prince did not have a wife or children so the dispute over his estate will be between his siblings.
Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley also died without a will, but left a wife and 11 children. According to USA Today, more than 30 years after Marley's death, his heirs were still battling over the singer's estate in court. There have been countless celebrities who have left minor children without a named guardian. We can only imagine that war.
Celebrities aren’t different from us when it comes to not wanting to think about death. Though most of us don’t have millions of dollars or mansions, we all have something we want to protect. A RocketLawyer survey reveals that 60 percent of Americans do not have a will. Do you have a plan for your family? What will happen to the people and possessions that you cherish if you don’t?
If you want to leave a legacy for your family, it is essential to put an estate plan in place. Without a plan, your assets may end up being spent on legal fees and taxes rather than where you want them to go. Even more importantly, if you do not have a plan for your children, the state could step in and make a custody decision that you would have not chosen. An estate plan allows you to plan for an unexpected disability and direct the distribution of your property.
“Ensure that your estate goes to whom you want, when you want, and how you want it,” advises Rachel Talasaz, estate planning attorney with Talasaz & Finkbeiner PLLC, in Oklahoma City.
An estate plan is like insurance, providing you peace of mind in case the worst happens.
“Without a plan in place, your family members or the courts must make your estate decisions for you, which is additional stress in such an emotional time,” Talasaz said. “By creating an estate plan, it helps your family know and follow your wishes.”
Estate planning doesn't have to be complicated; a will can be as simple as telling someone what you want done with your assets upon your death. A will also allows you to name a guardian for your minor children to help direct a court to make their decision, avoiding a court making that decision without your input.
A quick visit with an estate planning attorney such as Talasaz and her law partner, Isaac Finkbeiner, is all it takes to get the ball rolling.
“Many firms offer a free or inexpensive initial consultation,” Finkbeiner said. “This first meeting will help you identify your priorities, define your goals, and establish a plan to achieve them.”
An estate planning attorney’s role is to help you make the best decisions for you and your family. The attorney is an unbiased expert who can guide you through the decision-making process and make sure your wishes are carried out in case of incapacitation or death.
“A client-centered firm is best able to guide you or you and your spouse through the process,” Talasaz said. “When we counsel our clients, we take an active role advancing your goals and help walk you through it by making a plan customized to your situation and needs.”
Talasaz acknowledges online estate-planning tools can be helpful, but cautions that people should understand their limitations. . She had a family contact her because their father became incapacitated. The father got a power of attorney online and did not have any other estate planning done. The power of attorney was so restrictive that it prevented his family from doing what they needed while he was incapacitated.
“The power of attorney completely tied my hands to be able to help his family,” said Talasaz. “He is not believed to be recovering from incapacitation and now they will have to wait until he passes to do anything. It was a very sad situation.”
According to Talasaz, here are a few things your estate planning attorney can do to help you through this process:
- Prepare a will so your property will be distributed to the people you choose and set out guardianship for minor children.
- Create a Living Will/Advance Directive for Health Care to protect your family should you become disabled or incapacitated and need a trusted person to make personal and medical decisions for you.
- Ensure your property is best protected from creditors.
- Establish a Living Trust to have active control over your assets while living, during incapacity and after death.
- Establish special types of trusts customized for your unique circumstances (irrevocable, charitable, retirement, special needs).
- Prepare a Durable Power of Attorney in case you ever become incapacitated so the person you name will legally be permitted to take care of important health and financial matters for you.
Estate planning also allows you to start thinking about other personal affairs and making sure they are in order. Talasaz gives an example of a young couple with young kids who came in concerned about guardianship. While the couple was preparing and gathering information, the process helped flagged other things they didn’t realize might be a problem.
“Their life insurance coverage had been terminated and that had never been brought to their attention,” Talasaz said. “Once they knew about this, they were able to resolve the issue.”
Prince was only 57 and Marley just 36 when they died. This can be a lesson for everyone, whether young or old, rich or poor.
“Estate planning is for anyone at any stage of life,” Talasaz said. “I’d encourage all adults, with children or not, young or old, many assets or not so many, to not put this important planning process off any longer. It really can protect your family and your legacy plus it gives you the gift of peace of mind.”
Visit www.tf-lawfirm.com for a quick-reference guide explaining how the process works or contact Talasaz & Finkbeiner PLLC for a free consultation, at 405-896-0516.