When the singer Prince died without leaving a Will, few could have foreseen the extent of the complications and chaos that were to follow.
Three years on from his untimely death in April 2016 at the age of 57, and the wrangles and in-fighting between his beneficiaries and the person appointed by the courts to administer his estate continue.
Not to mention the reported $45 million blown in administrative costs alone, including $10 million said to have been spent on legal fees.
It is not known if or when those named by the courts as beneficiaries, Prince’s six siblings, will receive a penny. In fact, one sister has apparently said she expects the estate, initially valued at between $100 million and $300 million, to end up bankrupt.
It is Prince’s failure to make a Will – known as dying ‘intestate’ – that has led to much of the trouble.
Although a dispute can happen even when someone has made a Will – click here to see what we’ve written on this subject recently – there is no doubt that things tend to be a lot simpler it there is a Will in the first place.
Making a Will is something a lot of us put off for a whole host of reasons – the time, the hassle, the perceived expense or simply just not wanting to think about our own mortality.
In fact, new research shows there are currently 31 million people in the UK who run the risk of dying without a Will, meaning their estate would be distributed solely under intestacy laws with only married and civil partners and some other close relatives allowed to inherit, and not according to their wishes.
Don’t put it off
Here are some key reasons why making a Will is so important:
- A correctly drawn Will is an inexpensive way of avoiding difficulties for your relatives and friends in the future in the event of your death;
- It’s far cheaper than the cost for your relatives of sorting out your estate if you die without a Will and avoids financial stress at a time when they are already having to deal with your death;
- It puts you in control of the final destination of your estate and brings you peace of mind and freedom to enjoy your life knowing that your family, friends and the charities of your choice will be provided for as you wish;
- You can appoint people you know and trust as the executors of your Will to deal with your estate and make sure everything is handled as you want for your beneficiaries;
- You can appoint guardians to look after any children you have under the age of 18. This means that the courts are less likely to get involved and you know you have chosen people who share your beliefs and values;
- You can appoint trustees to look after any money you want to leave your children until they reach the age when you want them to have it. This is particularly important if you have been divorced as control of this money could otherwise go to your ex-spouse;
- A regularly updated Will means you won’t miss out on fast changing tax laws that could save your family thousands of pounds in death duties including new Inheritance Tax rules and the additional ‘residence nil rate band’ threshold;
- You can be clear about what kind of funeral you want, setting out everything from whether you want to be buried or cremated to the hymns and service you’d like;
- Unless you make a Will, unmarried partners and those who have not registered a civil partnership cannot inherit;
- There are some key times in your life which should act as a prompt to making a Will or updating an existing one. These are: Buying a house; Getting married; Moving in with a partner; Getting divorced; Having children.
For help and advice about making or reviewing your Will, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.