Since Prince died late last month, little time has been wasted addressing the handling of his estate. His sister filed documents with the Minnesota courts stating that Prince left no will just days after he died, and last Friday, reports ABC News, the singer's mysterious vault was drilled open by the Bremer Trust, appointed the administrator of his estate.
The vault reportedly contains enough unpublished music to release an album by Prince every year for the next century, some of it pre-dating Purple Rain, the album that catapulted him to fame. But for our purposes, the drilling of the vault is interesting for what it illustrates about estate law and keeping precious goods safe.
Presumably Prince knew the combination to his vault. But because he did not leave instructions for the handling of his estate after his death, by all accounts, the dramatic and drastic measure of drilling his vault open has to be taken. It's possible that estate administrators expected to find guidance among the musical treasures the pop star was hiding.
If they did, no one said so. But it does raise an interesting point for the rest of us to consider. When we lock our most important documents and goods up for safekeeping, have we considered alternative access in case of an accident or death?
If you have a safe deposit box or vault, it can be opened with a court order by the person or entity appointed to administrate your estate. But to be really safe, you should consider creating a list - that is not locked up and perhaps best left with a lawyer - of your accounts and assets and any secret places that you store things for safekeeping. Instructions for after your death should be easy to access.
When someone dies intestate (without a will) an estate administrator is appointed by the courts and the estate is divided by the laws of intestacy. That means that state law dictates who gets what you have left, generally your closes relatives.
In Prince's case the estate will be divided between his sister and five half-siblings, ABC News reports. If that is what Prince would have wanted, we will never know. For an artist who had so much to say, he was remarkably silent on the matter of his estate.
Talk to a Lawyer
If Prince's untimely death has you rightly concerned about estate planning, don't wait another day. Talk to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk to you about putting a plan in place.