What Prince’s death can teach us

The reports that Prince left this mortal coil without a will in place surprised some.

But not me.

It’s an easy thing to overlook when you’re still young and think yourself immortal. Doubtless, Prince thought ‘hey, I’m only 57. Who dies at 57?’. The unfortunate answer to that question shocked both him and the world a few weeks ago.

This isn’t meant to criticize Prince or anyone who has overlooks making a will. But let’s turn this tragedy into one of those “teachable moments” the media like to talk about. We live in a youthful culture. Some say 50 is the new 30, 60 is the new 40 and so on and so on. But people do die when they are 30. So putting off end of life planning is not something any of us should do.

Doing a will or power of attorney isn’t something you do for your benefit. It’s for those left behind. Dying without a will leaves your loved ones with the unenviable task of dealing with probate court and family squabbles over possessions.

As for what is to happen in the case of a rich, prolific musician such as Prince, a sketch of it can be seen in the example of Jimi Hendrix who died without a will. His $80M estate faced legal challenges by family members for years until being finally resolved last year – over 40 years after his death.

Because of he died without a will Prince’s estate is to be divided equally among his surviving siblings. Simple enough. But control over his legendary archive of unreleased recordings is likely to be a long complicated fight. Some have estimated that his archive could release an album every year to the end of this century.

If you’re thinking that this is a story of rich people and greed, shake your head a little.

For those of lesser means like almost all of us, these battles can rage as intensely despite the more meagre stakes. Long simmering family feuds and frustrations can make estate battles rough even when a will is in place.

So if you’re in that category of people that believe they’re still young, it’s time to call an elder law attorney.

You’re only as young as you feel. – until the day you die.