By Jeanne Sahadi | CNNMoney
It’s hard to believe that Prince — who was famously meticulous about maintaining control over his name and music — may have died without a will.
That leaves open the question of who will inherit his millions, his record label and his unreleased songs.
So what happens to someone’s estate if they didn’t make their wishes known in writing?
Who gets the money?
“[A will] is your voice and lets you decide where things go and who you want to carry these things out,” said David DuFault, an estate planning attorney at Sodoma Law in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“If you die without one, you cede control to the state where you lived. Its laws will determine who your heirs will be and the state will choose the executor of your estate. While inheritance laws differ from state to state, they generally favor spouses, registered domestic partners and blood relatives as heirs.
“It’s been accurately said that everyone has an estate plan—either one of your own creation, or one the government has fashioned for you. This article makes this point well. However, a will alone is not an estate plan; but only one part of the estate-planning discussion. A will is one tool to accomplish some estate planning objectives.
“For instance, a will is a testamentary instrument, meaning it only has effect upon its creator’s death; thus a will can accomplish nothing for disability planning—for potential times you are alive but incapable of managing your own assets. Also, a will can make clear to whom you would like your assets to go, but it is severely limited in articulating when and how you would like your assets to be distributed. Without more advanced planning, your assets will typically be distributed to your beneficiaries outright, and thus exposed to potential future creditor claims or possibly divorce.
“If you want to be empowered by a complete estate plan, please, arrange a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys.”