The cover of many magazines this month is focusing on the life and death of Prince. Unlike most other celebrity deaths, the actual details of the court proceedings are being published. So, why do the tabloids know all the juicy details about Prince’s estate?
Surprisingly enough, this is not about a gossip, leak, or breach of private information. Instead, the fact that his family’s squabbles are public is because Prince died without a Trust. His estate must be administered with court supervision, so all of the details end up as part of the publicly accessible court record.
Most basic modern estate plans include a Revocable Living Trust as the primary method of passing down property. Trusts, unlike Wills or not planning, can be administered with a “Trust Administration.” One of the unsung benefits of this process is the possibility your Estate can be administered without going through Court. Instead, the Trustee processes everything via confidential communications to the known heirs and creditors unless some circumstance requires court action. This means there is a good chance details of the administration are kept secret. Had Prince done a Trust, information like his estimated net worth ($300 million), names and addresses for all of his siblings, and the number of people claiming to be a love-child (as of this blog the number was whittled down to 2) would only be known by the Trustee.
Thus, an often unconsidered benefit of a Trust based estate plan is to keep your family’s information from becoming public. This is a good lesson to be learned, even if you don’t expect to be on the cover of a tabloid.