MINNEAPOLIS — When musical legend Prince passed, it took years of legal work to sort what he left behind.
“We’re free at last, thank God almighty, we are free,” Sharon Nelson, Prince’s sister told WCCO crews last year. “It’s been a long, long grueling six years.”
It took about six years and more than 4,800 court filings to settle Prince Rogers Nelson’s estate.
“Local celebrity Prince, passed away, no will, on trust, no estate plan,” Justin Halverson with Great Waters Financial said. “Everything left to chance.”
While not everyone has a legacy quite like Prince, it’s a lesson estate attorneys and financial planners hope to instill in their clients.
“Nobody really wants to think about what happens if I’m no longer here, or can’t speak for myself,” Halverson said. “But I think it’s just so important to consider your family and the impact it will have on them. If you don’t have these things done and taken the steps to protect them and your assets in the best way possible.”
Experts say every legal adult should have a will, especially if you have children.
Organize your assets
Estate planning starts with organizing your assets. That includes things like property, vehicles, checking and savings accounts, stocks and investments, insurance policies and personal possessions like furniture and jewelry. Creating a list will help you calculate the value of your assets and ultimately help you distribute things to your loved ones.
Next, figure out who will benefit from your valuables. By listing beneficiaries, you will determine who will get what after you pass away. Experts say they must be explicitly named in your will, or they may not get what you intended.
If there is someone in your family that you want to receive nothing, you can also include that in your will.
Name powers of attorney
Solidify other necessary estate documents like your powers of attorney. It designates an executor to carry out your will. That can be a bank, a lawyer or a trusted family member.
If you’re a parent, name guardians for your minor children.
You can also complete forms to designate a financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney. These people can make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable.
Make it legal
Lastly, make it legally binding, which includes your signature and two witness signatures. While it may seem tempting, don’t do it yourself. You could miss crucial steps,
“The problem with a will is I won’t know if I did my will wrong ever,” Stone Arch Law Office estate planning director Phil Ruce said. “It’s my family that’s going to see that I did it wrong.”
Seeking professional help is an important step Ruce — and other estate attorneys — say can help save you money and save your family from a public probate process.
“Do something. A will is a powerful and wonderful tool,” he said. “And it’s very important for families to get that done ”
“You can go online, you can go to the library, and you can find these documents and type them up yourself. It won’t cost you a dime,” estate attorney Andy Gutwen said. “But you aren’t paying us for a piece of paper, you’re paying us for our expertise and our experience.”
Gutwen says spending a few thousand dollars now can help you save tens of thousands of dollars down the road.
Experts recommend keeping your estate plan as a living document that gets updated often. A good rule of thumb is to update your plan every five years, or if a major life event happens, such as a marriage, divorce, death or birth.
Stone Arch Law Office offers several resources, including eBooks, online. Click here for more information.
Monday night, financial professionals and partner estate attorneys hosted an estate planning essentials class for clients and guests, free of charge. To check out similar opportunities, click here.