We were all shocked by the tragic death of Amy Winehouse last July. This 27 year old artist had already made a visible mark in the music industry and was destined for further fame and greatness. This sudden end was too soon.
At her death, there was a lot of speculation and even applause for Winehouse’s foresight and responsibility in having an estate plan, and having modified it appropriately upon her divorce from Blake Fielder-Civil.
Winehouse’s estate was listed at a value of 6.7 million dollars. After taxes and such, it still has a value of around 4.66 million dollars. Of course that is the value of the estate that passed through probate, other property with value may have been passed outside of the probate court, this would include anything she held jointly with another person or party, or anything with a designated beneficiary.
Sadly however, this speculation was not grounded in reality. In Winehouse’s situation however, dying without an estate plan may be close to what she may have wanted. Dying without a will or any other estate plan places a person in intestacy. Intestacy is an estate plan for the masses. The government set a flow for how property is to be distributed if a person dies with no will. Because Winehouse died with no will or trust, her estate will be distributed through intestacy. In her case, because she divorced her spouse, and has no children, her estate will pass to her parents.
So whether Winehouse would have left something to her former husband, or her brother, or her best friend, is irrelevant because it was not written down in a legally binding way. It is so easy to procrastinate the day of your estate planning because we all assume we have plenty of time to take care of that ”later.”
I’ve said it before in this blog, a well drafted estate plan is one of the best things you can do for your family. Every individual with even a somewhat small estate should have some kind of estate plan, even if only a basic will. These legal instruments prevent so much heartache, and can end up saving the estate a substantial amount of money and time. Properly drawn estate plans can keep peace in families at a time siblings need each other most.
Estate plans can be as simple as a basic will and as complex as tax sheltering trusts with multiple springing and shifting interests. Amy Winehouse’s estate plight does not have to be repeated, undoubtedly however, it will. So many, who need to get these matters addressed, choose to procrastinate under the comforting thought that there is plenty of time to take care of matters “later.”