In this final installment let’s look at a Will versus a Trust. Because of Prince’s death and the family drama unfolding due to a lack of a will – as of this post’s date there are over 100 people claiming to be his long lost child – I pulled up Michael Jackson’s Will. What jumped out about his will was its simplicity – it was 5 pages long. What I have learned is he did a trust based estate plan instead of a will based estate plan.
What is the difference? I’m not a lawyer so this is a gross over-simplification. Once you file a will – your executor(s), benefactors and heirs (and their address) and the details of what they get – it becomes a matter of public record. Anyone can go to the local probate court where you filed your will and see it. Creating a Revocable Living Trust is a way to keep your final wishes private since it does not need to be filed with a probate court.
This is what Michael Jackson did, he created the Michael Jackson Family Trust in which he named 3 executors. His “will”, is a “Pour Over Will” which was the publicly filed document that stated all his assets are moved to the “trust”.
I’ve been watching the tragedy unfold around Prince’s death. The lack of a will is going to take time to settle, but I believe the worse tragedy is his legacy is at risk of being lost. His fans will remember him and his music. But he could have set up his estate such that he could have continued to support the organizations he supported from now to perpetuity. Milton S. Hershey and his wife had no children, their legacy lives on through not only the town founded by their company but also the Hershey School supported through the Milton Hershey School Trust he established prior to his death.
We all write for different reasons, but I believe the root of all those reasons is the same: we write to leave our mark on the world. Protect your legacy, look into estate planning with a reputable attorney and insure your legacy will live on.
Please note: I am not an attorney, so any information in this post is for general purposes only and should not be considered as specific legal advice.