Prince: The Lost Legacy of an Estate Plan Untold

by Bryan Cave
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You may not have produced over 30 albums, accrued over $300 million and an equivalent amount of fans as Prince, but, like the recent pop star, you too have a legacy that could impact many individuals around you.

The term “legacy” is often thought of as being reserved for the “rich and famous” – the families and faces that grace magazine covers and news headlines.  While Merriam-Webster’s definition of “legacy” indicates it to be money or property that is received when someone has died, it also includes intangible things of value – something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past.  Such intangibles like a lesson, confidence, the importance of generosity and kindness and respect for others.  These, too, can be elements of your estate plan that can be passed down to impact generations after you.

While having a will or trust is an opportunity to avoid mass amounts of confusion and headache upon your death, it is also an opportunity to be intentional with your resources to positively impact those who have impacted you during your life – whether it be a few individuals, a small town, a college, a local youth organization that set you on the right path or a volunteer project that gave you a much needed fresh perspective on life.  It is a chance to enliven a part of your world with a good and encouraging message, such as to believe in oneself, celebrate your achievements, and a reminder that others have confidence in them, too – a voice which counters the competing messages of so many antagonists.  For the family you have worked hard to take care of, it is another reminder that you were also thinking of them at this time, long before it ever happens.  It is easy for such planning to be overshadowed by today’s increasing demands on your time, energy, and focus.  Everyone will leave a legacy, and maybe it’s time for you to think about yours.

As for Prince, it appears he died without leaving a will (according to the court documents filed by his sister).  His musical legacy will undoubtedly live on well beyond his life.  Projects he started during his life may continue and succeed without his direction, or they may fade without a designated plan of succession in place.  As for his dreams, possible visions for enabling musically talented youth, or a need he would have liked to address in his beloved state of Minnesota, these, for the most part, are now lost.  The beneficiaries of his estate are currently uncertain, and the future of his legacy is now left up to the laws of Minnesota.  Not to mention the estate tax bill, and who is to decide which assets are sold and how to pay for it.  The lifetime and future of royalties may now be squandered by siblings and half-siblings Prince may or may not have liked, or could even be left to the government to spend.  All that we may know of Prince is through the words left behind in his music, albeit from our interpretations of what we think he wanted to say.

For those of us without such written and memorable evidence of who we are and what we value, a well drafted will or trust is an important tool to forever state your hopes and desires for your children, your family, and the ideas and organizations that you support for the importance you have found in them during your life.   It seems Prince would agree that planning your legacy is an important use of time – not only to avoid  sorrow and pain, or give others a chance to laugh in your favorite color of rain – but to be remembered not for what you forgot to do, but for what you provided for, and may continue to provide for well after you, too, are gone.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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