Having a Will Makes a Difference

We have all been witness to the probate headache accompanying the unfortunate death of the late musical mastermind, Prince, as the result of his passing without a will. While the process has taken over a year, in early May, Judge Eide ruled that Prince’s sister and five-half siblings were the heirs to his multi-million dollar estate. Underlying issues, however, remain unresolved.

One issue is the potential rescission of a $31M deal between the Estate and Universal Music Group involving the certain rights to Prince’s catalog and unreleased music. The Estate opposes rescission of the contract, as voiding the contract could lead to negative legal and monetary repercussions for the Estate. As the legal battle heats up, it is hard not to wonder if this all could have been avoided through some clear expression of Prince’s own wishes as to the future rights of his musical legacy through a validly executed will.

There is a way to avoid this circumstance. We have seen a contrasting outcome following the passing of golf legend, Arnold Palmer, last September. Palmer left behind a validly executed will through which he made specific plans to divide his hard-earned fortune, estimated to be at a value of $875M, between his three loves: his family, his life’s work, and his charitable foundation.

With substantial assets, Palmer decided to not only allocate funds to support family and charity, but also to provide for several former employees. Specifically, he provided for eight of his employees to receive $25,000 each, which seems to show how deeply he valued those who worked tirelessly to support him. Because he had a will, the world is provided with a clearer picture on the legacy Palmer intended to leave behind and the individuals he trusted enough to continue on with it.

Even though it would be easy to dismiss any comparison between a golfer and a musician, Arnold Palmer and Prince were both titans of their industries. Both had immense fortunes and talent to protect, but they were also people who had loved ones and a passion for their livelihood.  The difference, however, is in the manner and autonomy (or lack thereof) exercised by them in making their final requests known through a last will and testament.

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