Running a business can be all-consuming, often to the point directors and owners are so focused on the service or product outcome for customers, that protecting the future of the company takes a back seat.
Here are 6 tips all owners should consider to ensure the business is in safe hands if anything were to happen.
1. A suitable Will
For an individual, the impact of not having a Will is clear. For business owners, the effect of not having a valid Will that considers the business would be detrimental, not only to your beneficiaries, but also your business partners, employees, and the company itself.
In your Will, you can decide who will be responsible for the continuation of the business if you were to pass away. It is crucial to have contingency plans in place, so the shares of the business are passed on exactly as you intend, and that your family, shareholders, employees, and customers are protected.
2. Plan for estate taxes
While there is no estate tax in Hong Kong, company shares are considered moveable assets, meaning they are governed by the laws of your country of domicile, and not necessarily under Hong Kong law, even if the company is registered in Hong Kong. Many people are unaware of this and may end up liable to pay unexpected inheritance or estate taxes.
If you are not considered Hong Kong domicile, it’s crucial to consider company shares as part of your estate based on the laws governing your country of domicile, and plan accordingly.
3. Have a succession plan fit for today and tomorrow
Having a succession plan is essential should you want the business to continue after you retire or pass on. However, many people put this off as a job for the future – ‘I’m too young to think about retirement, and nothing will happen to me!’.
What if something were to happen to you today, however, and you were not able to operate your business in your current capacity? Who would take over your role?
Having a succession plan that is fit for today and the future is essential to ensure business as usual if you were to become incapable of working, or if you passed away.
Take the time to create a sensible succession strategy for all key people in the business.
4. Assign power of attorney
A Will designates who would own your business shares if you were to pass away. But what if something were to happen that left you unable to make sound financial decisions for the business?
For example, who would make decisions on payroll, and be able to pay your employees? Business owners should assign power of attorney to a trusted partner or employee, who would be able to make financial decisions on your behalf, should you be in a position where you were unable to.
In a business with two or more partners or shareholders, Keyman insurance covers the value that crucial people bring to the company, and pays out to the business as a beneficiary, should a partner pass away. The surviving partner(s) can then use the insurance payout to buy out the deceased partner’s beneficiaries, rather than having to accept the family of a lost partner as equal shareholders of the business – something that may not be in the best interest of the company.
Beyond the passing of a shareholder or business partner, the effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus have shown us that many small and large businesses don’t have sufficient liquidity to meet financial obligations for even a short period if cash influx was to slow or stop altogether. Insuring your business for similar events in the future can prove crucial to keeping the company afloat during the tough times.
6. Organise important records
All important documents and records should be kept safe and known to all key people and successors.
This includes things such as your business plan, financial statements and employee records. Having all essential documents organised and the location known avoids potential problems down the line and ensures a smooth continuation of your business.
Estate planning as a business owner may not have been a priority for you in the past. But having a suitable plan in place will give you peace of mind that if anything were to happen, your business would be able to continue with as little disruption as possible.
Get in touch today to make a plan.
It is always important to consider what would happen to our children if we are unable to care for them for whatever reason. Still, in the current climate, with the Coronavirus spreading fast across the globe, it is even more pressing.
Most parents are aware that they should appoint testamentary guardians for their children, should both parents pass away.
However, what if the parents fell ill and had to be hospitalised or quarantined without the children? Or if they had been in an accident, leaving them incapacitated? Or even if they had just taken a weekend away without kids and were simply out of reach?
OK, this last one may not be anything any of us would consider right now, but many of us have previously, and surely will again, once this mayhem blows over.
The appointment of guardians that you have made in a Will only comes into effect if both parents have passed away. So what happens if at least one parent is still alive but incapacitated, or somehow neither parent was able to care for the children?
No one would have the legal responsibility for the children, and they could end up in state care until the parents were able to claim them back.
Relying on a helper looking after the kids and fending off the authorities, may not be the best solution – we all know that helpers are not highly regarded by the authorities, and if her employer is incapacitated, she could even face problems of her own.
The solution – Appoint a legal Living Guardian who can step in and look after your children while you’re incapacitated or out of reach.
Should you be unable to communicate in any way, then the living guardian would also be nominated as a medical proxy, to make medical decisions for your children on your behalf, should they need medical attention.
Get in touch today to have peace of mind that even if the worst or anything unexpected should happen, your children will be properly cared for.
A legally valid Will will ensure that your loved ones are taken care of and that you pass on your estate exactly how you intend.
However, if your wishes are not expressed clearly beforehand or the Will is not legally sound, this leaves it open to being contested in court.
Over the past 15 years, the number of contested Wills has been increasing year on year, possibly due to more family situations becoming more complex.
Here are the 5 most common ways that Wills are contested.
Not following legal procedure
If the legal steps required for writing a Will are not followed, it could be deemed invalid and therefore, open to being challenged. One of the critical steps to consider carefully is getting the right witnesses.
The legalities around witnesses vary from country to country. In most countries, your Will must be witnessed by two people, but in some jurisdictions, you may need three. Witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of the Will, and to be safe, no-one mentioned in the Will, or even related to someone mentioned in the Will, should be a witness.
Again, in most countries, a witness must be over 18, but in some, they can be as young as 14. The witnesses must watch you sign your Will, and you must then watch them sign. How often we have seen Wills that were invalid because the witnesses signed on a different date to the testator!
If any one of these conditions are not met, the Will can be declared invalid.
‘Reasonable Provision’ for financial dependents
If someone is financially dependent on you, the law dictates that you must make what is known as ‘reasonable provision’ for them in your Will. This includes any child, spouse or any other person that may be financially dependant on you.
If you have left someone out of your Will, who can prove that he was financially dependent on you during the last years of your life, he has grounds to contest the Will and is most likely to win.
‘Lack of Capacity’
For a Will to be valid, you must be of sound mind so to fully understand the implications of the contents of the Will. This includes being aware of who your beneficiaries are, the value of your estate, and how it is divided between beneficiaries, as well as who is appointed to manage the estate.
The Will can be challenged if it is believed that you did not fully understand the contents or what you were agreeing to.
The wishes in your Will must be made of your own accord. If a Will is made involuntarily or you are put under pressure to change the Will in someone else’s favour, this ‘undue influence’ can make the Will invalid. If someone feels this has taken place, they can legally challenge the Will. This is a situation that often arises if someone makes or changes a Will late in life or just before coming to a sudden end.
Wills can be challenged if it is believed the content of the Will or a signature of the testator or witnesses has been forged.
‘lack of capacity’ was the most successful grounds when looking at Wills contested in 2018.
‘Undue influence’ was the most commonly sought reason to contest a Will, but was actually the most unsuccessful due to it being quite difficult to prove. Source: The Balance
As family situations become more complex and higher house prices lead to higher estate values, the number of contested Wills is inevitably increasing.
It is crucial to ensure that your Will is legally watertight and that your wishes are expressed clearly and voluntarily to avoid any conflicts later down the line.
Phoenix Wills provides expert Will writing no matter the complexities of the family or your wishes. Get in touch today for a free consultation.
Getting your Will organised, if you haven’t already, should be your number one priority to ensure your loved ones are protected. However, if you own property overseas, having just one Will may not be enough.
As tax and inheritance laws vary by country, you could get caught out if you own foreign property, leaving your estate vulnerable to not being passed on as intended or hit with unexpected taxes.
Here are the most important issues to consider and how an appropriate estate plan can prevent this.
If you are not aware of the laws around heirs in the country you own property, not having a Will could mean that your intended beneficiaries aren’t able to inherit.
In some countries, including the UK, you are free to choose whomever you want to inherit your property. In other countries, like Spain and France, for example, property passes to pre-defined heirs.
If a British national owns a Spanish property and passes away without having a Will, the property would pass down according to Spanish law. However, by having proper Will arrangements in place that covers foreign assets, he would be able to impose British law on his Spanish property, and pass it to whomever he pleases.
When you pass away, your property must pass through the probate process in the jurisdiction it is located.
If you only have one Will covering assets in multiple countries, you can significantly delay the probate process by months or even years, because the one Will will have to go through probate in one country at a time.
The order the Will would pass through probate in the relevant countries may vary. It would usually start in your country of origin, then your country of residence (if not the same as your country of origin). Any other country where you have significant assets will follow in turn.
Assets in countries that have already been processed may still be frozen until the last country has been processed, to provide security against any potential liabilities you may have in other countries.
As an example of how it can all go wrong: –
A gentleman passed away with one Will covering assets in 7 countries – the whole probate process took 23 years. By the time the estate was settled, most of his beneficiaries had already passed away themselves. Not that that made a difference. After solicitors in 7 countries had taken their share for sorting out the mess, there wasn’t much left to inherit anyway.
In general, real estate is governed by the laws of the country in which it is situated. A Will that is written based on the laws of one country and which has to cover real estate in another country, may at best face delays due to differences in law, or the Will may even be invalid.
By organising a Will for each jurisdiction in which you hold assets, you can ensure the Wills will reflect the laws in the relevant countries accurately and that your Wills can go through the probate process in each country simultaneously. This way, you can ensure your assets are passed on to your beneficiaries as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Inheritance and estate tax laws in your home country may vary from those of the country in which you own property. It can have a significant impact on the inheritance left for your beneficiaries if an estate tax is imposed, whether only on property owned in one country or on your entire worldwide estate. You should always seek in-depth tax advice when planning your estate and setting up your Wills.
Draft the wills at the same time
The benefits of organising Wills for each jurisdiction in which you own property or significant financial assets are clear. It is also wise to draft and update your Wills at the same time and with the same Will writer – making sure that you choose a Will writer with expertise in multi-jurisdictional estate planning so that local laws are taken into consideration. This way there is little risk of inconsistencies between the Wills, or of the Wills accidentally invalidating one another.
The small added cost of getting multiple Wills organised with the same Will writer is far less than the potential costs of getting your estate plan wrong.
With real estate being many people’s most significant assets, it is particularly important to plan ahead, especially when the property is owned abroad. With proper planning, you can avoid nasty surprises and ensure that your estate is passed on as you intend and as pain-free as possible.
Phoenix Wills specialises in writing multi-jurisdictional Wills for people with global assets. Contact us today for peace of mind that everything is in place.
DIY Will writing? It could be the cheapest way to cost your loved ones more in the future. Here are 5 reasons to consider using a professional
While it is legally possible to write your own Will, the potential risk of a Will not being valid, or accurate to your wishes, could be extremely costly to your estate and your loved ones down the line.
Here are the top reasons why a professional Will writer is the best option to ensure you pass on everything exactly as intended.
1. The cost is minimal compared to the risk
While there is a one-off cost to use a professional Will writer, they have the knowledge and had the professional training to ensure the Will is legally sound. The legal fees that could be incurred in sorting out the estate, if your self-written Will doesn’t hold up, are likely to far exceed the initial cost of having a Will drafted by a Will writer with a proven track record. Is it worth the risk of leaving your estate exposed to potential costs and conflicts between loved ones if the Will is not legally sound?
2. A Will Must Have No Errors
If you write your own Will and you make a mistake, then pass away, you would not be around to correct any errors or explain your intentions. Some common errors we see with people who have self-written their Wills include: –
• Not signing the Will correctly
• Not telling anyone where the Will is stored
• Not updating the Will to reflect changes in your wishes
• Making updates that contradict previous parts of the document
• Writing notes in the margin and making changes by crossing out expired clauses directly in the Will.
This can cause great grief to your loved ones when you pass on, and any emotional burden can be minimised by using a professional Will writer.
3. Wording May Cause Confusion.
Self-written Wills can often contain language that is not specific enough and is open to being misinterpreted by family or even the courts. Will writers are used to working in a language known to be easily interpreted by executors, trustees, and beneficiaries, as well as the courts. This language ensures the wishes of your Will are implemented precisely how you intended.
4. Unexpected Scenarios
If you write your own Will, there are many scenarios that you may not consider or even think of, such as – What happens if you leave an asset to a relative and you outlive them? Who is responsible for the upkeep of your properties? It’s safe to say that a professional Will writer will have come across many situations like this and will be able to structure the Will in a way that covers such scenarios.
5. A Will writer can store your Will safely and keep you and your executors informed
One of the biggest distresses we hear about when someone passes on is that the family knows the person has a Will but were never told of its location. In some cases, the Will is kept in a place that is not accessible. For example, most people consider a bank safety deposit box an excellent place to keep their Will safe. Unfortunately, the Will may be useless, as a Grant of Probate will be needed to open the safety deposit box, but the Grant of Probate cannot be issued without presenting the Will.
Many Will writers offer a Will storage service, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your Will safe, and the best storage services include regular communications to your executors so that they are aware and reminded of the existence, and more importantly, the location of your Will.
Many people put off getting their Will written as they think it may be a long and complicated process.
While the contents of your Will should be carefully thought out, it can be a relatively quick and easy process when seeking the help of a professional Will Writer.
Here is a list of the main things you will need to get your Will ticked off your to-do list.
Your beneficiaries are the people that you want to inherit your assets or belongings when you pass away. You can be as specific as you wish with what you give to whom and how much you give. A beneficiary can be your spouse, your children, extended family, or even friends and charities. You can also assign back up beneficiaries in case the initial beneficiaries have also passed away.
Who should manage your personal belongings?
When you pass on, you may have some idea of what should happen to certain personal belongings. If your children are young, you may nominate someone to look after your ‘stuff’ until your children are old enough to decide what to do with it all. With specific reference in your Will, you can ensure that family heirlooms remain in the family line. A pet is considered a personal belonging, so it is equally important that you make provisions for any pets in your care.
A guardian is a person you assign to take care of your children if both parents had passed away. If you pass away without having legally appointed guardians for your minor children, the courts effectively decide who will look after them; in some cases, this could mean the children ending up in state care.
If the guardians you assign live in a different country to your children, you should also appoint local temporary guardians who can take care of them in the short term, ensuring the children are cared for by people you know and trust, until they can be transferred to the permanent guardians.
An executor is a person you would like to execute your Will and manage your estate. This should ideally be someone that you trust to implement the instructions exactly how you would want. It is a common misconception that a beneficiary cannot act as an executor, but in most cases, your main beneficiary and executor will be the same person, namely your spouse. In some countries, you must appoint two executors to act jointly if you have minor beneficiaries.
Trustees (if you have beneficiaries under age 21)
If your beneficiaries are minors, they cannot legally inherit directly. You must entrust someone – a trustee – to look after and manage the inheritance for the minors until they come of age. This could be a long term appointment, and it is important that you carefully consider who to appoint. Often, but not always, your executors will also act as trustees, and it may make sense to include the legal guardian as a trustee.
A professional to write your Will
A Will is probably the most important legal document you will ever have to sign. Therefore it is critical that it is written in a language that is clear and concise but also conforms with the laws in your jurisdiction, and that the Will is signed in accordance with the legal requirements in the country which it covers. A professional Will writer can ensure that your Will is true to your wishes and executed as seamlessly as possible with no legal complications.
Your Will is extremely personal and can trigger emotional thoughts and conversations between you and your loved ones, so it is often put off until a later date. However, not having considered the above things can lead to unwanted distress for your loved ones and your wealth not being passed on in the way you would want.
Phoenix Wills can help you create the best estate plan in line with your wishes. Contact us here for a free consultation and get your Will done today!
For various reasons people often think they don’t need a Will. However, they are unaware of the consequences of not having one in place.
Here are five common excuses we hear as to why people think they don’t need a Will, that aren’t actually true and could leave their loved ones in the position they might not want them to be in;
1. ‘Everything will just go to my partner, right?’
People often mistakenly believe that if they pass away, everything will automatically go to their married or civil partner. However, this is not the case in most countries; in fact, often only a small cash sum is left to the surviving partner, with the remainder of the estate held on trust for the benefit of partner and children, and in some countries even parents.
2. ‘I’m going to live forever.’
Many people put off the perceived hassle of writing a Will, instead plan on leaving it for later life, and they are confident they will reach that stage. In the UK, around half of the population has no Will in place and 185,000 people don’t reach average life expectancy each year. Is not having your Will in place worth the risk?
3. ‘I don’t have a large amount of wealth to pass on.’
A Will can state how you would like to pass anything down that you own, not just your home or financial assets. If you want to pass on sentimental items to specific people or even pets, you need to have a Will written and have these wishes stated.
4. ‘My family will know what I want.’
Talking about what will happen if you were to pass away is not the most comfortable subject, so it is often avoided. However, assuming that your family will know what you want to happen could lead to unwanted family disagreements. Having a Will written will state exactly how you want everything to be passed on.
5. ‘I Have No Children’
Writing a Will when you become parents or have other dependents is essential. However, even if you have no dependents, you may want to pass on wealth or belongings to friends or other family members or even charities, so it is still essential to have your intentions stated in a Will.
It can feel uncomfortable to discuss the topic, especially if we are young and healthy. But writing a Will is crucial to ensure your family, dependents and spouse are protected and looked after as intended.
Contact Phoenix Wills today for a free consultation, we make getting your Will written a quick, simple process so you can have peace of mind knowing everything is in place.
Common reasons why a Will fails and how to ensure your Will is well written
Writing a Will can be a stressful task that we tend to avoid or push to the bottom of the to-do list. Our Will states personal wishes as to how we’d like our estate to be distributed after we pass away. Once we have written our Wills we should be satisfied and fully confident that our estate will correctly be distributed according to our stated wishes.
However, there are reasons that we oversee or are not aware of when preparing and writing our Will that can cause it to fail. If a Will fails it means that it is not valid, and in effect, there is no Will – leaving our estate to be distributed under intestate laws. Sometimes only part of a Will fails, for example where back-up provisions have not been made for a situation where the main beneficiaries have all passed away.
Common problems you should be well informed of before preparing and writing your Will:
Different countries have different signing requirements to ensure that your Will is legally binding. You are the testator of your Will, and to validate your Will, you will need to sign it in the presence of witnesses or a notary public. As the name indicates, your witnesses must physically be present and watch you when you sign and date your Will, and they must then sign and date the Will in your presence – sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, many Wills fail because the testator and the witnesses signed with different dates.
Requirements for who you choose as a witness vary, depending on the country the Will covers. As a general rule of thumb, a witness should be over the age of 18 and sound of mind. A witness cannot benefit from the Will they are witnessing, so it would be wise to choose a witness who is not mentioned in the Will or even related to anyone mentioned in the Will.
Marriage revokes a Will automatically, so if you are writing your Will or have written a Will when single and you get married, this will revoke your Will and make it null and void.
If you are already engaged to be married, or if you are expecting or planning a proposal, you can write your Will in anticipation of the marriage, so that tying the knot does not revoke or change your Will. You must name your future spouse to be in the Will – so you cannot write a generic Will stating that it shall not be revoked if you ever decide to marry someone.
Whereas it is perfectly legal to write your own Will, no matter how simple you feel your estate is, writing your own Will can lead to tremendous probate issues, and your beneficiaries might have been better off if you had no Will at all.
Where young children are involved, or where there are assets or ties across borders, it is important to take advice from a professional, who can guide you and ensure that your Will is drafted to properly care for your loved ones.
Although a DIY Will is attractive to save on cost, it can be a risky approach and could leave your family with a financial and emotional upheave. Discussing your estate plan and wishes with professionals ensures that your legacy is preserved.
Only an original signed and dated Will is accepted by the probate courts. If you show up with a copy of a Will – even if it is a certified copy – chances are the courts will give you a timeframe to locate the original, and if this cannot be done within the deadline, the courts will rule that there is no Will, and proceed to apply intestate laws to your estate, meaning that your efforts were all for naught.
Any scribbles, markings or evidence of attachments, such as a paper clip mark or staple holes on your Will, can invalidate the entire Will. It is essential to keep your Will safe, clean and protected from any potential damage.
Location of your Will
The number one reason for a Will to fail is that no one can find it! If your Will is not found and presented to the probate courts within a relatively short timeframe, the courts will assume you did not leave one, and declare that you have died intestate – leaving it up to a predetermined set of laws to decide who gets to inherit your estate.
Don’t fall into this category by making sure that your estate planning documents are kept safe, but accessible.
Want to know where to store your Will? Read more…
Writing your Will is one of the most important things you can do, but it is important to keep in mind the formalities that you must comply with for your Will to be valid and go through probate successfully. Our team has the expertise and skills to assist you with writing your Wills and planning your estate.
Where to Store Your Estate Planning Documents – and where not to!
Have you created your Last Will & Testament? Yes, that’s great! Now, where to store it? Writing your Will is an important task but it’s not the last task on your “to-do” list before you can kick up your feet, sit back and relax.
Did you know? The number one reason for a Will to fail is that no one can find it! If your Will is not found and presented to the probate courts within a relatively short timeframe, the courts will assume you did not leave one, and declare that you have died intestate – leaving it up to a predetermined set of laws to decide who gets to inherit your estate. Don’t fall into this category by making sure that your estate planning documents are kept safe, but accessible!
Below are some pointers to keep in mind when deciding where to keep your Will and other estate planning documents:
Let Your Executor Know
First and foremost, wherever you choose to keep your Will, the most important task is to alert your executors to the fact that you now have one, and where it can be found. Your executors only have a relatively short time to find and present your Will to the probate courts – the timeframe varies from country to country, but a good rule of thumb is six months. Rather than sending your executors on a wild goose chase, or having them tear your house apart in a desperate search, let them spend the time to mourn you, and then figure out the next steps (which we will discuss in another blog post). Don’t forget to keep your executors up to date on any changes, especially if you decide to move the documents to a new location.
It makes sense to keep your Will close, so you can pull it out from time to time, and check that you’re still happy with it. There are a few reasons why your home may not be the best or most secure place for your Will, however – you may be tempted to make amendments by scribbles in the margin – this could invalidate the entire Will. It could also be that children found it and decided that the textured paper it is printed on would make for a great colouring surface – again, this could invalidate the Will. Finally, and possibly most important, if you and your Will were to perish in a fire, you would have passed away intestate, and your efforts to set up the Will in the first place would have been for nothing.
A Safety Deposit Box
If your home is not the safest place to keep your Will, then surely a bank safety deposit box will be. Indeed, however a safety deposit box is too safe! If you pass away, your safety deposit box and its contents form part of your estate, and therefore access to it is frozen along with your other assets. To gain access to your safety deposit box, your executors will need to present the bank with the Grant of Probate, proving that the courts have accepted them as your executors. A Grant of Probate can only be issued by the probate courts upon presentation of your Will, which is locked inside the safety deposit box – a catch 22.
With Your Executor or Family
Instead of keeping your Will at home or in a safety deposit box, considering the risks, you may decide that the best way to make your Will accessible to your executors, is by leaving the Will in their care. This would certainly mean that the executors had immediate access to the Will – but what happens if your executor accidentally loses your Will, or worse – what if you have a fallout with the person holding your Will for you?
Another concern here is that, whereas it’s important that people know that you have a Will and where it’s kept, it is no-one’s business what the Will says until the day you pass away. If you have given your Will to someone to look after, they may sneak a peak and find that they don’t like what they read, or they could even attempt to contest a later Will based on the contents of the earlier Will that they had read.
With your Will Writer or Solicitor
Most Will writers and solicitors will offer to store the Wills you have drafted with them for free, in the anticipation that they will then be involved in the far more lucrative probate process. However, most firms offer only that – the safe-keeping of your Wills, with no additional service of informing and staying in touch with your executors, or even yourself. What’s more, the ‘safe-keeping’ may not be guaranteed – how many stories we have heard about firms closing down and a whole career’s worth of Wills lost, because the staff or successor didn’t have up to date contact details of the clients, or – as in a recent case – the Wills that were in the care of the firm had been moved to a forgotten basement, and were only discovered years later – after several clients’ estates had already been processed under intestate law.
With Phoenix Wills
As we do not directly engage in probate, we do not expect a future income from dealing with our clients’ estates, and therefore do not offer a free storage service.
Instead, we focus on keeping your documents accessible but safe. A nominal fee covers an annual check-in with you to ensure that your Wills are kept up to date. In addition, we send an initial information letter to your nominated executors, as well as an annual reminder to each of them, reminding them of the location of your Wills. This means, by the time you pass away, maybe 30 years after signing your Will, it would have been a maximum of a year since your executors had last heard from us, and instead of trying to remember what you told them about the location 30 years ago, they would (hopefully) immediately know where to turn to in order to retrieve your documents and get the probate process underway, ultimately ensuring that your assets were transferred to your beneficiaries as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Choose the storage option that seems the most suitable for you.
Hong Kong is a transient place, with many of us moving frequently within the city or across the region, during our time here. Ensuring that your Will is safe, rather than risking it being lost in yet another move, is crucial. The physical location of your Will is nowhere near as important as it being easily accessible in the event of your passing, so even if you leave Hong Kong to move to another posting or return home, your Will can be kept in that one safe location, as long as your executors are regularly reminded of the existence and location of your documents.
If you do choose to store your Will at home, may we suggest that you invest in a fire- and waterproof safe, to protect your Will in the case of fire or flooding – or even the water cannons putting out a fire. And remember that your executors will need to know how to open the safe!
The rich and the famous who died without a Will and what a mess it was!
What do Prince, Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin have in common with people like you and me? More than you’d think! As many of us do, they neglected their estate plan and put off writing their Wills until it was too late.
You’d have thought these legendary stars, who generated millions in revenue, would have planned to safeguard their estates. Unfortunately, they never wrote a Will, died intestate and left their estates down at heel.
Here are a few famous artists who failed to plan:
- Jimi Hendrix (Nov 27, 1942 – Sep 18, 1970)
American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jimi Hendrix died without a Will and his estate was battled over for more than 30 years. Following his father’s death, Hendrix’s siblings were left behind, still fighting over the large estate.
- Bob Marley (Feb 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981)
One of the pioneers of reggae, Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley’s estate continues to bring in a significant revenue even though he passed away from cancer in 1981. Bob Marley had been advised to write a Will, but because of his Rastafarian faith prohibiting him from recognizing his mortality, he never did.
Dying intestate, he left behind decades of lawsuits and claimants of his estate, which was estimated to be worth about US$30 million when he died.
- Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)
Prince died without a Will and his estate remains unsettled, with none of his family able to receive a penny. Sadly, his estate has already, and still is benefitting others – Princes’ estate remains in the hands of state-appointed lawyers and executors who have already collected over US$5 million in fees and expenses!
- Aretha Louise Franklin (March 25, 1942 – Aug 16, 2018)
With great surprise “The Queen of Soul” American singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin put off writing her Will until it was too late, leaving behind an estate worth US$80 million, and four sons and other family members guessing at her wishes. Her intentions could have been carried out quicker and with less fuss, had she written a Will.
- Salvatore Phillip “Sonny” Bono (Feb 16, 1935 – Jan 5, 1998)
Most well-known for his song I Got You Babe with his second wife Cher, songwriter, television star and politician Sonny Bono, too neglected to write a Will before passing away from a tragic skiing accident in 1988.
Not having a Will complicated the star’s estate, as at the time of his death he left behind a wife, Mary Bono, and three children. Complications surfaced when ex-wife, Cher, and a “love child” made claims to Sonny’s estate.
- Amy Winehouse (Sep 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011)
Amy Winehouse, English singer and songwriter, known for her unique eclectic mix of jazz, pop, soul and R&B, sadly passed away at the young age of 27. Initially it was claimed that Winehouse had, impressively for her young age, an up to date Will, however probate records state the star died intestate. Winehouse may not have had a Will, but what she did have was an estate worth US$6.7 million!
In accordance with intestate law, Winehouse’s estate was passed to her parents, leaving out ex-husband Fielder-Civil (who according to speculations Amy Winehouse still very much loved) as well as her older brother as beneficiaries. Dying without a valid Will, Amy Winehouse joined the list of many of the rich and the famous who neglected or procrastinated in planning their estate.
So why is it that these stars worth millions didn’t have a Will? One possibility is that – like many of us – they simply didn’t want to think about or face their mortality, but the simple truth is, we’ll never be certain!
It is, however, important to address the topic of death, and plan for the inevitable future, making sure that however little or much we have, our estates are distributed according to our wishes, and not decided by the laws of intestacy!
There is much we can learn from the famous – regardless of the value of your estate; whether you’re famous or not; dying without a Will leaves your loved ones with a lot more than just their grief to work through. The answer is quite simple –make sure you write a Will, and remember that writing a Will is not only for you but for the people you leave behind.
With assistance from our team, it does not have to be a complicated affair, and it will leave you and your loved ones with the peace of mind that everything and everyone is taken care of.