Category Archives: Last Will and Testament

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US musician Prince performs during his concert at the Sziget Festival on the Shipyard Island, northern Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011.

Why Prince should have had a Will

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I’m disappointed with Prince. Here’s why. He was in a position of influence because of his popularity, but he left as a legacy a court battle over his estate. And worse than that, he left a trail of emotional trauma and possibly financial damage to his family. First, let me update you on where things stand regarding Prince’s estate. Then I’ll tell you why Prince should have had a Will.

Quick update: According to an article in Reuters, 29 people have had their claims denied in the Prince probate proceeding in Minnesota. These folks (I won’t call them vultures) included a professed secret wife who said the CIA had classified their marriage records as top secret. Among other would-be heirs denied by the court were five people who came forward claiming Prince was their biological or adoptive father. Several others claimed their dad was also Prince’s genetic parent by way of an extramarital affair with his mother. There is no final word on who the heirs will be, since some have to submit to genetic testing.

For all the taboos that Prince pushed against (sexuality in particular), he certainly avoided the taboo of talking about death. And I say this all as a fan. I’m originally from Minnesota. And I saw the movie Purple Rain in my hometown of Winona, Minnesota when it first came out. Also, I’m proud to say that my high school (Cotter High) recorded a jazz band album in the same recording studio where Prince recorded the day before in 1980. (I played alto sax.) We could still smell his cigarette smoke. That was a pretty cool experience.

So … here’s why I’m disappointed with him:

  • His family is having to fight each other (and a bunch of strangers) over who gets what.
  • The lawyers are having a field day raking in fees, which is what Prince would NOT have wanted since he was always so careful to manage his own affairs.
  • The people who are inheriting from his estate are getting a financial windfall. This is a recipe for disaster. Various articles on the internet claim that 70% of lottery winners end up in bankruptcy. I couldn’t find any actual research about this. But from my experience, I would not be surprised about this statistic.
  • He completely missed an opportunity to help causes that he cared about … perhaps teaching music to underprivileged kids.

Anyway, I would like some popular icons and leaders to actually do a good job of planning for their deaths and give us that kind of positive experience. But, then again, I guess that wouldn’t make it in the news because it would be handled quickly and privately.

If you have any questions about Wills or Trusts, give us a call. We regularly handle high net worth estates, including some famous people. We are discrete with our clients. Prince was not my client, otherwise (a) his estate wouldn’t be an issue like it is, and (b) I wouldn’t be bad-talking about him here (because of our obligation of confidentiality).


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Your Husband Died and His Children are Asking Questions

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If your husband died and his children are asking questions, what do you do? Your husband’s kids may be asking if they can get your husband’s belongings, such as family photos or furniture. Perhaps you and the step children don’t agree on whether your husband should be buried or cremated.

First, you need to see a probate attorney right away. Find out your rights and responsibilities. Once you know where you stand legally, then you will be better able to deal with the other family members. Treat your husband’s kids with respect. But you also don’t need to be a door mat. Maintaining communication is important. It is usually best to invite them to the funeral or memorial service. It also helps diffuse some of the emotions by allowing your husband’s kids to get mementos, such as family photos. These are easy enough to copy and distribute. (You can either take the photos to an art store than can duplicate them. Or there are places that can scan them and save them digitally.) The same thing applies to military medals; you can purchase duplicates for family members who want them.

As to the bigger issues (like your husband’s house and bank accounts), you need to understand that the devil is in the details. Estate planning and probate can be complicated. To help explain what happens, let’s see what will happen to your husband’s house:

  1. If your husband added you to the house deed as “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” then you get the house now that your husband died. Even if your husband had a will or trust, the designation of a beneficiary on a house or account trumps whatever it says in the will or trust.
  2. If the house was in your husband’s name, and he didn’t have a will or trust, then the house is transferred according to state law. The applicable statute in Arizona is somewhat complicated, but generally you (as the surviving spouse) get 50% of your husband’s “stuff” and his kids get 50%.
  3. If your husband had a will, then the will determines who gets what.
  4. If your husband had a trust, you need to see a probate attorney.  While the trust probably determines who gets what, this is not always black and white. For example, you are probably the sole trustee now that your husband has died. However, there are other issues. What rights do you have to income and principal? Are you supposed to divide the trust into different subtrusts?  Do you have a power of appointment?

It always amazes me how blended family seem to get along fine over the years until one of the parents dies. Then all of a sudden the biological children of the deceased parent becomes scared that they’re not going to be treated fairly. Sometimes this is justified, and sometimes it is not. So often, the surviving spouse excludes the other side of the family from even basic civilities. Suddenly, the surviving kids never find out about the funeral. Their request for copies of photographs and family mementos go unanswered. Sometimes they can’t even get a copy of the will! This friction can lead to arguments and even court battles.

If your husband died, you need the help of a probate and trust attorney who will take charge right away. Give us a call at our Scottsdale office and ask if we can help you.


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Solving Disputes Involving Estates

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Solving Disputes Involving EstatesResolving disputes over estates, wills and trusts is often a delicate process. In a previous post we looked at the definition of a probate dispute (a dispute or conflict among family members that arises while settling a deceased loved one’s estate). As we’d seen, resolution to these conflicts doesn’t always come easily. An experienced probate and dispute litigation attorney can help you navigate the complex and often-confusing situations associated with settling an estate.

Consider a case where I represented two brothers in an estate dispute. The father had died a number of years earlier, and the mother had remarried. Later, both she and her second husband passed away. Before their deaths, the mother and her second husband – the stepfather – had revised their estate plans so the stepdfather’s children were in charge of everything after both parents died.

Instead of selling and distributing the home and assets, the stepsiblings moved into the parents’ home and refused to distribute the estate. (The estate included personal items of my client’s father: military medals, family heirlooms, photos and other irreplaceable family keepsakes). The stepsiblings were even threatening to give away or donate many of these treasured family heirlooms.

I helped resolve this dispute by going to court and obtaining orders to force the stepsiblings to turn over the heirlooms. We negotiated a resolution that saved my clients a lot time, money and further heartache. In the end everything was distributed fairly according to their parents’ wishes.

That was one case, all-too similar to many others. Here are a few questions to consider in estate disputes, where the assistance of a dispute-litigation attorney is beneficial:

  1. Who should be the personal representative or executor?
  2. Is the personal representative or executor doing what he or she is supposed to be doing?
  3. Is the will valid?
  4. Was there a will but is someone hiding it?
  5. Is a stepfather or stepmother in charge of the estate? Or are stepsiblings in charge of the estate?

The best way to solve an estate dispute is to address the issue when it arises, rather than waiting to see how it might play out. Seek the assistance of an experienced litigation attorney as soon as possible after your loved one passes away. This is true whether you have been nominated to be in charge of the estate or if you’re a beneficiary.

With an attorney assisting you in an estate dispute, you will have the advantage of an experienced guide to help you navigate a complex legal system. The dispute will be resolved in less time than if you were to attempt it on your own. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing that the estate will be settled as your loved one intended.

If you have any questions about resolving an estate dispute, please contact our office. We’d love to help.

[will write up an alternate CTA to send people to the quiz/whitepaper that will be the next step in the gravity well]

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