What links Pablo Picasso, Jimi Hendrix, Abraham Lincoln, and Aretha Franklin? Not much, you're probably thinking. They do, however, share one significant feature. They all died intestate, which implies they didn't leave a will behind.
Pablo Picasso died in 1973 at the age of 91, leaving a fortune in artwork, five homes, cash, gold, and bonds. Picasso died intestate, without a will, and his estate took six years to settle, costing $30 million. His estate was finally split between six heirs. After Hendrix’s death in 1970, the battle over his estate raged on for over 30 years. Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated and die without a will—despite being a lawyer himself. When Franklin passed, she was worth around $80 million. Without a will, the state of Michigan had to step in to assign an executor from her family who was then responsible for managing the division of assets. In this case, her niece was appointed.
Without a formal will or estate plan in place when you pass, you leave many important decisions up to the interpretation of a state-appointed executor who may or may not have been the person you would have picked. Allowing intestate succession law to dictate the division of your estate can lead to tension and disputes between family members. Having a prepared estate plan ensures that your wishes are reflected and carried out after your death, helping to avoid unnecessary conflict and expenses later on.
Estate Plan Essentials
An estate plan is more than a will and includes four core documents: a revocable trust, a will, a healthcare directive, and a durable power of attorney.
- A revocable trust serves as a safe haven for all of your belongings. You can avoid probate court entirely by putting your assets into a trust and keeping your personal issues out of the public light. After your death, the trust, with you as trustee, determines who owns the many objects in its possession, ranging from cash and stocks to real estate, jewelry, and even pets.
- A will states who receives what, and if your estate plan includes a trust, the will designates the trust as the sole beneficiary of your assets.
- When you are no longer capable of making healthcare decisions for yourself, the healthcare directive outlines who makes such decisions for you.
- While you are alive, a durable power of attorney offers someone you trust decision-making authority. When you pass away, this power passes to the executor, who is responsible for carrying out the contents of the will.
There are numerous ways to draft a valid will, depending on the requirements in your state, with the assistance of an attorney. You may be able to complete a questionnaire and have a legally compliant document generated by an internet service provider if you want to draft a will on your own. If your estate is complicated—or if you have blended family relationships to consider—you should have an attorney evaluate your will, even if you did not have an attorney actively involved in its creation.
Famous or not, everyone should have a will—especially if you are over the age of 55. Preparing one is easy to do, and it will save you and your family a lot of money and time. And, as the instances above demonstrate, you can never be too young, too educated, or too powerful to have a will.
If you need assistance with drafting a will or have any inquiries regarding estate planning, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2394.