By Alexandra Smyser
Like most Americans, I was shocked and saddened by the death of Prince. I liked Prince in middle school and high school, but in college his music became the soundtrack to my life. Unfortunately for all of us, collectively mourning musicians has become all too commonplace in the last year. And at first, I was simply one of those fans who couldn’t imagine a world without Prince in it.
As the stories developed in the wake of Prince’s death, I was so happy to hear that, in addition to being a musical genius, Prince was a philanthropist. According to reports, he supported civil rights causes, education and even made anonymous gifts to strangers who were in need. The fact that he did not boast about his good deeds, made me like him even more.
But then the story took the worst possible turn for this estate planning attorney. The news came out within the past week—Prince had no will! In response to a petition filed by Prince’s sister, a Carver County judge appointed Bremer Trust as a special administrator for Prince’s estate. This was an emergency response so that there is someone legally responsible to manage Prince’s assets and business.
How could a man who fought so hard to regain control over his musical legacy not have created a plan for it after he died? How could a man with a philanthropic heart not have cemented his charitable legacy with testamentary gifts? Et tu, Prince?
Believe me, I understand that estate planning requires us to acknowledge our mortality and that can be difficult, if not impossible, for some. I understand that we are all busy and estate planning often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. But I can’t help thinking that when Prince failed to write his wishes down, he irrevocably lost the ability to make a game-changing difference in organizations that he held so dear during his lifetime. And this would have made him immortal.