Tax Law Blog: More Issues for Prince's Lack of Estate Planning

Dentons Davis Brown

I’m not typically one to follow pop culture, but in the case of Prince’s lack of an estate plan, I’m following closely how this can serve as an example of how not to do your estate plan.  An earlier post discussed the implications of Prince dying intestate, or without a will.  Specifically, it discussed that his entire estate would be distributed to his siblings and half-siblings, if he died unmarried and with no children. As the estate administration continues, the problems and interesting issues continue.

The rules of intestacy distributing his estate to his siblings were founded on a large assumption that is now being questioned: that Prince had no surviving children.  At least one individual has come forward to Prince’s estate, claiming to be Prince’s biological child. DNA tests will be used to either confirm or deny the individual’s claim. This individual is unlikely to be the only person to make such a claim. DNA testing may also be necessary to prove or disprove whether other individuals claiming to be distant relatives truly are relatives entitled to a portion of the estate. If anyone refuses to voluntarily take the DNA test, the Estate could ask the court to order the test.

In Prince’s estate, all of these issues are making the news because of his fame and the amount of money involved. However, similar issues can arise even in the average estate of the not so rich and famous. Sometimes the issue is an unknown child or an individual who was treated as a child though not biological and not adopted. Failing to have an estate plan and leaving the default rules of the state to apply requires a determination of who is included as a “child.” Even a generic use of the term “child” can cause confusion in situations where an individual was treated like a child, though was not legally a child of the deceased. The most common (and simple) alternative is to specifically name your children in your will, and state that no others are included.

In Iowa, there is no requirement for a parent to leave assets to his or her children upon the parent’s death. You can intentionally choose not to include a particular child, and you can intentionally choose to leave your assets to a person who was not your child.  The key here is making an intentional decision; making your wishes known. 

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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