The unexpected death of iconic singer/songwriter Prince last week has been dominating the headlines ever since it happened. It’s yet another example of someone taken too young without warning. While the repercussions will continue to reverberate throughout the media for weeks or months to come, the legal and financial impact of his sudden death will be felt by his family for years. Prince died without a Will.

According to the New York Times article published today, Prince’s sister filed a document in Carver County, Minnesota probate court stating that her brother had died without a spouse, children, or surviving parents, and she was not aware of the existence of a Will. The document further listed 5 half-siblings of Prince who will also be interested in the estate.

There’s no doubt that dying without a Will complicates an estate. If Prince had died as an Ohio resident without a Will, the handling of his estate would be very cumbersome, inefficient and expensive. Someone would have to apply to be appointed the Administrator of his Estate, and would have to post a bond in order to qualify (a probate bond is an insurance policy based on the value of the probate estate). The distribution of the assets would be to his siblings as directed by Ohio Law (when a person doesn’t make a Will or leave another plan of distribution, the beneficiaries are determined under the law). The result is that the cost of the bond will severely diminish the value of the estate, and the distribution may not be to the people Prince would have wanted to receive his estate.

It’s always a good idea to make sure your estate planning is in place. As we’ve learned this year, we never know when our time will come, and we need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Putting together, at a minimum, a simple Will allows you to name your beneficiaries, name the people you want to be in charge of your estate, and “waive bond” for those people (you are allowed to waive the requirement of the posting of a bond when you make a Will). This would allow the estate to be handled more efficiently, and would ensure that the right people would be in charge and that the right people would inherit from the estate.

Even better would be putting together a Living Trust plan. A Living Trust also allows you to name your beneficiaries, name the people you want to be in charge of your estate, and “waive bond” for those people, but it also allows your estate to avoid Probate altogether. Why is it important to avoid probate? Read our article herefor the details.

We may not have an estate the size of Prince’s, but we all need to have a plan in place to handle what we do have. The cost of not having a plan is too high.