Tag Archives: diesmart.com

Why didn’t Prince have a will?

PrinceThat’s a question that we’ll never know the answer to.  If he was like more than half of the people in this country, he just hadn’t gotten around to writing one, didn’t think he needed a will or didn’t care what happened to his estate once he was gone.  Regardless of his reason, the fact remains that he didn’t have a will and the probate court will decide what happens to all of his assets.

Minnesota law is quite clear.  If a person dies intestate (without a will), the estate goes to his children, grandchildren, spouse or parents.  Since Prince had no children, grandchildren or spouse and his parents are deceased, his entire estate will go to his brothers and sisters.  Prince had six half-brothers and half-sisters as well as a full sister, Tyka Nelson.  In Minnesota, half siblings are considered to have the same inheritance rights as those who are full siblings.

To muddy the waters, hundreds of people have come forward and said they were relatives of Prince.  In addition, a Minnesota man in his 30’s has said that he’s Prince’s son as a result of a relationship between the deceased and his mother in the 1980’s.

Prince’s estate has been estimated at between $150 and $300 million.  In addition to real estate and money, there are several unpublished works and a lot of unreleased music that can be worth millions.

Something that hasn’t been discussed in any of the articles we’ve read is Prince’s digital estate.  He kept many unpublished works in a vault bank but what if he kept others in an electronic account?  What if there is a will but it is stored in Drop Box or some other online storage facility?  Unless he left instructions or provided someone with a list of his digital accounts and their passwords, we may never know the full extent of his assets and their value.

Whatever the final disposition of Prince’s estate – who receives what based on Minnesota probate law – and its final value, there are two lessons we should all learn from this.

  1.  See an attorney and get a will prepared.  Even if you don’t have the kind of assets Prince had, it’s still a very important thing to do.  Don’t let state statutes determine what happens to your estate.  You decide.
  2. Document your wishes related to your digital assets.  Do you want anyone to see what’s in your private emails or do you want them destroyed?  Do you want your Facebook account shut down or do you want it to be memorialized and continue?  What do you want to happen to your Bitcoin account?  What are your logons and passwords for accounts that have financial implications?

Don’t wait.  You don’t know what will happen tomorrow or how long you’ll be on this earth.  Get your legal paperwork in order now.

To find out more information about estate planning, go to our website www.diesmart.com.  To find out more about digital estates, check out our book, Access Denied: Why your passwords are now just as important as your will.

If you owe money when you die, who pays the debt?

clipart0275If you’re like most people, you have some kind of debt – a mortgage, a credit card bill, school or a car loan. What happens when you die? Do your heirs have to pay your bills for you?
According to a recent U.S. News and World Report article, the general rule of thumb is that if there’s enough money in your estate, your bills will be paid out of the assets you’ve left. Those assets will be liquidated to generate the necessary funds.
If there’s not enough money in your estate, here’s what will probably happen. I say “probably” because there are no firm rules in this area and each case is different.
Credit card:
As long as you don’t have a co-signer on your credit card, the odds are that the debt will be discharged by the credit card company. If you have a co-signer, that person will be responsible and will have to pay whatever is owed.
If the house isn’t paid off, the bank may decide to foreclose…unless someone takes over the monthly payments.
If you are making car payments when you die, your vehicle can be repossessed by the bank. However, if one of your family members is willing to take over the loan, there should be no problem.
There are a few caveats that you should be aware of.
If you owe a lot of money and make deathbed gifts, your creditors may be able to convince the court to return those gifts to the estate so that their bills can be paid.
Your children or spouse should be careful about cosigning financial agreements for you. This personal financial guarantee may obligate them to repay any money owed through these agreements after you die.
If you don’t want your loved ones “haunted by debt collectors” after you’re gone, make sure they’re careful about what they sign.
For more information about how to manage your estate and what happens when you die, go to www.diesmart.com.

Is there an unclaimed life insurance policy in your future?

I came across an old article in the New York Times about this topic and thought it worth reviewing. 

When someone who purchased a life insurance policy dies, the amount due to the beneficiary is set aside and the insurance company waits to be contacted by that person.  After a period of time from two to seven years (it varies by state) has passed with no one coming forward, the money is turned over to the unclaimed property division of the state in which the person died. 

Since many people do not know whether a family member who died purchased a life insurance policy in their name, hundreds of millions of dollars go unclaimed.  In fact, New York alone, in the period 2000 to a few years ago, received more than $400 million in unclaimed life insurance property and only paid out about $64 million.  That means the bulk of that property remains unclaimed and probably will never be claimed.

If a family member has died and you think he or she might have had a life insurance policy, the first thing to do is to check for any payment receipts or check stubs so you can identify the name of the insurance company.  Contact that company, ask what their procedure is for filing a claim and then follow their instructions. 

If a great deal of time has lapsed, two good places to start are unclaimed.org and MissingMoney.com.  If they have no record of any funds, check the website for the unclaimed property department of the state in which the person died. 

Don’t leave your money in the state’s coffers.  Claim the funds due to you today.

For information about estate planning and other relevant topics, go to www.diesmart.com.

What is the most important part of estate planning?

When you do your estate planning, you probably think the most important part of this planning is your Living Will or your Last Will and Testament.  They are very important but they are not the most important thing.

I recently read an article by Julie Garber on about.com and she said the most important part is to select the right person to do each of the jobs your estate plan will require.”  After thinking about it, I agree.

When selecting a person to be your healthcare agent or guardian for your minor children or personal representative, be sure that this is a person who has your best interests at heart.  Also, verify that this person has the time as well as the skills to perform the needed tasks.  And, finally, select someone who you think can make wise decisions.

If you have name someone who declines to accept this position, and the backup person you’ve named also declines, a judge will make all of the decisions for you and your family or will find someone who is willing to do so; this person may not be someone you would have chosen and may not do things the way you would have wanted them done.

Think about it carefully and choose wisely.

For more information about estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

One person is the biggest loser – Settlement of the Huguette Clark will dispute

Awhile ago we told you about Huguette Clark, a reclusive multimillionaire who died at the age of 104. 

She wrote two wills about six weeks apart.  In the first one, she left the majority of her $300 million estate to her relatives, many of whom she had not seen in many years and some who she had never met.  The second will directly cut out all of her relatives and left $30 million to her private duty nurse, Hadassah Peri, gifts to her lawyers and accountants and funds to create an arts foundation at her $85 million mansion, Bellosguardo, in Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of her relatives contested the will, claiming that she had been unduly influenced by her caretakers.  The case was supposed to go to court but, just as jury selection was about to begin, the case was settled out of court.  An 81-page settlement agreement was presented to the judge and was approved.

19 heirs of Huguette Clark will receive $34.5 million with estate taxes and $11.5 million in attorney fees paid by the estate.  Another big winner in the settlement is the charitable arts foundation that will be created to maintain Bellosguardo.

The biggest loser is her nurse.  Hadassah Peri will not receive the $30 million she was given in the first will and, in fact, will have to pay back $5 million of the $31 million she was given during Huguette Clark’s lifetime.

Those of you who read this blog may not have $300 million and so may think that having a good will, written when there is no question of your mental state, may not be that important.  But it is.  Unless you want your family to have to go to court and fight for what they think they deserve, put your wishes in writing NOW and, if possible, share those wishes with your loved ones so they will know what to expect and can ask any questions they may have….while you can still answer them.

For more information about wills and other issues related to end of life planning, go to www.diesmart.com.