Don't make the same mistake as Prince and die without a will
Pop megastar Prince reportedly left no will when he died last week, leaving his multi-million dollar fortune intestate and potentially in dispute.
The Purple Rain singer is thought to have never made a will because he was worried about being conned by signing legal documents, after high-profile fall-outs with record labels in his earlier years.
Prince’s sister signed for probate, the process of applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s property, money and other possessions, on Tuesday in Carver County, Minnesota.
Paula Myers, specialist will dispute lawyer at Irwin Mitchell says Prince’s case re-emphasises the importance of keeping a will up to date.
“Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things any of us have to go through and the grieving process can be made even more difficult when there is a dispute over a will. “Whilst it’s not unheard of, it’s highly unusual for a person of Prince’s stature to die without leaving a will and it this is likely this will result in his family having to endure a lengthy court process.”
Though Prince’s fortune was most recently estimated at under $150 million, Ms Myers adds that his records sales could surge following his death, noting Michael Jackson’s record sales reached $2 billion in the six years after his death.
Prince is by no means alone in not leaving a will. Research from financial adviser directory Unbiased.co.uk last year, foundthe majority of people in the UK do not have a will, including 60% of people in their fifties.
Other celebrities who’ve died without a will
Here are some of the more high-profile cases of celebrities who reportedly died without making a will...
When the Back to Black singer joined the 27 club in 2012, it was initially claimed she both had a will, and updated it when she divorced her partner. Later reports claimed the contrary, meaning her estimated £4.2 million estate would have gone to her parents.
Thought to be the world’s wealthiest artist when he died at 91, Picasso supposedly left no instructions for his $30 million estate, which took six years to settle. Complicating matters further, in 2015 Pierre and Daniele Le Guennec were found guilty of hording a 270-strong collection of stolen paintings worth £50 million, though they insisted the artworks were a gift. The collection was ultimately returned to the Picasso family.
Despite being a lawyer by profession, Lincoln had no will when he became the first US president to be assassinated in 1865. His $85,000 fortune would have been worth millions in today’s money.
Notably, the personal possessions he died with weren’t inherited by his family, but instead made their way to the Library of Congress. These included an ivory pocket knife, a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles, a handkerchief, a wallet and a five dollar bill, though he wouldn’t feature on it until 1914.
Regularly voted the greatest guitarist of all time, Hendrix reportedly had no will when he died at 27, leading to what could be one of the longest legal battles of all time.
Hendrix first arrived in London penniless, so much so that he had to beg for his landlord not to raise the rent when it was discovered he was living with his girlfriend, according to the Experience Music Project in Seattle, his hometown. But the three albums released in his all-too-short career earned him a multi-million pound fortune.
His estate was initially managed by a Californian attorney, before Hendrix’s father Al successfully sued for the rights to his music in 1995. When Hendrix Sr. died in 2002, so began another legal dispute that wasn’t settled until 2015, 45 years after the death of the Voodoo Child singer.
The case of actor Heath Ledger also highlights the important of ensuring you regularly update your will to reflect changing circumstances.
The Brokeback Mountain and Batman star died in January 2008. But though he left a will, it apparently hadn’t been updated since 2003, excluding his daughter and her mother. A spokesperson for the Ledgers said that though they weren’t mentioned, they would be looked after.
The process of applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s estate. If a person has left a will, they will usually have appointed a will executor. The executor then has to apply for a ‘grant of probate’ from the probate registry, which is a legal document that confirms the executor has the authority to deal with the affairs of the deceased. If a person dies without making a will, intestacy law applies (see intestate).
If you die without making a will, your estate will be divided up and distributed according to a set of complicated procedures laid down by the law as set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. The more complicated your life, the more complicated the intestacy laws after your death. Given that 60% of registered deaths last year were intestate, according to Title Research, the only way to ensure your estate is divided according to your wishes is to make a will.
Everything you own: all your assets (property, cars, investments, savings, insurance payouts, artwork, furniture etc) minus any liabilities (debts, current bills, payments still owed on assets like cars and houses, credit card balances and other outstanding loans). When you’re alive this is called your wealth; when you’re dead, it becomes your estate.