Many people know they should have a will, however, they drag their feet in contacting an estate planning lawyer to draft one. Because they have never spoken with a lawyer about estate planning, these same people often do not realize everything that a will actually is.
A will is a legal document that specifies how a person wants their assets distributed when they die. The will contains who the beneficiaries are, how much they will receive, and how and when those beneficiaries will receive their inheritances. The person will also name an executor of their estate in the will. The executor is the person who is entrusted to make sure that all of the estate’s debts are paid and all of the decedent’s wishes are carried out.
If the person has minor children, they can also name who they want their child’s legal guardian to be.
What Happens If a Person Dies with No Will?
When a person dies and they do not have a will or any other estate planning tools in place, this is referred to as dying intestate. In these situations, their estate will be divided under the estate laws of the state they resided in when they died. In many cases, this distribution is often not what the decedent would have wanted and can get very legally messy.
Take the examples of two music icons, both who died without a will – Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.
Jimi Hendrix’s Estate
Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. His entire estate went to his father, Al Hendrix. Al died in 2002 and his estate went to his step-daughter, Janie Hendrix. Jimi’s brother Leon received nothing from his father’s estate. A legal battle ensued.
Some of the beneficiaries claimed that Jimi and Janie never had a close relationship and that she had no rights to the estate. There were also concerns over how she had managed the estate. The case was finally settled in 2004 when a judge ruled that Janie had mismanaged the estate and breached her duty as a trustee. However, the only thing Leon ever received was a gold record that had been given to him by his father years before his death.
Bob Marley’s Estate
Bob Marley never saw himself as a “rich” man. In a 1979 interview, he claim he did not have any assets. What he did not realize was that his legend would live on. Without rights to his image, trademark, and personality, the market would become a free-for-all. To stop the unabashed and insensitive manufacturing and sale of their loved one’s image, his family had to purchase rights to his image and trademark. Had Marley had the insight to understand the implications of passing away without a will, he might have better protected his family and his legacy.
Contact an Estate Planning Law Firm
Whether you have millions of dollars in assets, a legacy or intellectual property that needs to be preserved, or loved ones that you want to make sure are taken care of when you are no longer here, contact a Lackawanna County, PA estate lawyer from Hoegen & Associates, P.C. to find out how a will and other estate planning tools can help.