Anyone can experience issues with wills, including celebrities. Amy Winehouse died without a valid will expressing how to distribute her $6.7 million estate. The court decided that her assets would go to her parents who were her closest living relatives at the time of her death. Many people assume a will is not needed because the distribution of their assets will naturally be carried out smoothly such as Amy’s.

Another celebrity, James Dean, died unexpectedly at the age of 24 without a will. After the death of his mother at age 9, James Dean’s father sent James to live on a farm with his aunt and uncle across the country. It was well known that since then James and his father did not communicate often nor have a good relationship.  How do you think James Dean felt when his father (and ultimately his father’s relatives) inherited his assets as well as control of his name, likeness, and image? Millions of dollars are earned each year just by allowing James Dean’s face on collectables, memorabilia, and even on social media. In the eyes of law, it does not matter what James Dean would have wanted because we would never be able to truly know. It is the laws of the state he lived in that governed who received and controlled his legacy he created and earned, not James Dean’s wishes himself. By being the father of James, he received all his son’s assets even though people were aware of the relationship James had with him.

A more recent example that is complicated and seemingly an endless matter is with Prince. Prince could be setting the record for the most complex probate case in the history of Minnesota. In May 2017, a little over one year after Prince’s tragic death, a judge formally declared that Prince died without a will. The judge confirmed Prince’s sister, along with five half-siblings, to be the rightful heirs to his multimillion-dollar estate. Many other individuals, who claimed heirship, were rejected. One inmate in Colorado prison declared he was Prince’s son, but was ruled out through DNA testing. Another woman’s claim was rejected after she argued she was Prince’s wife, but the C.I.A. forced her to make their marriage confidential. There were several people claiming to be his secret wife, children, siblings, or other forms of relatives during the wake of his death. Some of the rejected claims are being filed for appeals.  The Carver district judge stated if the appellate courts send any claimants back to him, he would fully consider them once more. Because of the possibility of claimants winning their appeals, Prince’s estate is still under the court’s discretion to make sure that other potential rightful heirs are not harmed. There is no immediate indication of when these ongoing and complex legal battles will be settled. Currently, there is a proposed trial date for September 2018 for one of the ongoing disputes involving the estate.

In summary, if you don’t have a will then your loved ones may not receive the assets you wish to leave them. To ensure that your friends and loved ones receive the contents of your estate upon your passing, it is extremely important to make a will.  Need to create a will? Have any questions? Contact the law office of Charles H. McClenaghan, LLC at (614) 429-1053 to learn more about wills and how to make sure your will is properly executed.

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