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Celebrity examples show importance of estate planning

Nevada fans of Prince may have heard that it appears he died without a will. Although celebrities may have bigger and more complicated estates than most people who are less famous, there is still a great deal that can be learned.

Not having an estate plan in place can result in a lengthier and more expensive probate process. In Prince's case, a good chunk of his estate may go to taxes. Jimi Hendrix's family fought about the rights to his songs and image for decades. When Hendrix's father died, he left the estate to his adopted daughter. This was contested by Hendrix's brother and his brother's children, but the judge believed that the father deliberately did not leave the brother in charge because of his drug addiction.

Another job that a judge may have is determining whether a person is competent enough to manage his or her own affairs. For example, Britney Spears is under a conservatorship and her financial affairs are managed by her father and an attorney. Judges must use their own human intuition along with following the law in order to make these kinds of determinations, so these decisions are often subjective.

The best way to avoid being the subject of such a family battle is by planning ahead. Death or incapacity can strike a person at any age, so estate planning is not simply a matter for older adults. In addition to creating a will or trust, a person may want to prepare a power of attorney. This is less complicated and expensive than the process a relative would have to go through in petitioning for a conservatorship, and it also gives people the opportunity to choose who will make financial decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and unable to do so on their own.

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