Date: May 19th, 2016

Death of Prince shows importance of estate planning

By Ann Heiden, Executive Director

Ann Heiden, Executive Director

Ann Heiden, Executive Director

Pop music star Prince apparently died without writing a will, and it’s likely that his relatives will be fighting in a Minnesota court for years over his estate, estimated at between $150 million and $300 million. It turns out, Prince was in good company. According to a survey by Rocket Lawyer, 64 percent of Americans don’t have wills.

Prince was also a philanthropist who shared his wealth with many organizations and causes. He gave regularly to causes related to abuse, adoption, fostering, AIDS & HIV, at-risk youth, cancer, arts, education, family support, health and hunger. Because Prince didn’t have a will, there’s no guarantee that any part of his money will support those causes going forward.

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of his music, you have to agree that with careful estate planning, his legacy and desire to change the world could have continued far beyond his songs.

Many people think creating a will or estate plan is difficult because it brings the prospect of mortality closer in thought. The reality is, however, that we all face mortality at some point. So why not plan for it?

The good news is we don’t need Prince’s wealth to make a difference. In fact, setting charitable provisions in your will or estate plan allows you to build a long-lasting permanent resource that will assure your charitable presence in the community and add potential sustainability to your favorite causes. At the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, we witness beautiful stories of legacies.

In 1996, the death of Esther Geffs, a Janesville resident who believed strongly in community participation, resulted in a foundation gift of $600,000 to create a memorial fund in her name that would provide perpetual support to her favorite charities and people in need. Now, 20 years after her death, her gift continues to have an impact. Her original gift has provided $533,000 of support to Janesville-area nonprofits, while the balance, despite market fluctuations, remains at $600,000. That’s just one of our many examples. Regardless of the amount, giving a gift through your will or estate plan not only strengthens a community and its residents but can offer advantages to surviving family members, too.

The Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin routinely works with individuals, families, attorneys and financial planners in the nine counties we serve to design gift plans that fit every economic situation. In partnerships with professional advisers, we ensure that donors receive the most benefits from their contributions and that their philanthropic dollars are used for good, forever in honor of their wishes. A will and proper estate plan could have avoided many of the challenging issues surrounding Prince’s estate and guaranteed that his legacy would have forever impacted the causes he cared most about. While it’s too late for his family, you still have time.

Contact us today for the tools and tips you need to get started!