As many music fans in New Jersey may know, it has been about three years since the rock-and-roll legend Prince died at his residence in another state. He was 57 years old when he died.
While his untimely death offers many lessons to the American public, perhaps the biggest lesson is that it is important to do at least some minimal estate planning, such as creating a will. This is especially true when one's estate is reported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as was the case for Prince. However, even those of much more modest means should heed the same lesson the case of Prince's estate offers.
Without a will or other estate planning documents, probate litigation is much more likely because there is no clear indication of what the person who died wanted. Although every state, including New Jersey, has laws that specify what is to happen when someone dies without a valid will, would-be heirs are more likely to fight, if only out of a sense of honest confusion, in the absence of clear guidance from the person who died.
The story of Prince's estate shows just how ugly these fights can get. The estate has been pending for about three years now as Prince's siblings, his legal heirs, work to iron out their differences. So far, it does not look as if there has been a lot of progress in this respect.
What has happened is that the administrators of the estate have allegedly spent $45 million dollars in estate-related expenses, with $10 million going to legal fees.
Proper estate planning does not guarantee that there will be no probate litigation after a person dies; however, creating an estate plan with the help of an experienced New Jersey attorney is an important first step for any resident of the Garden State to take.