Estate & Elder News

A Note from Christine

Hi ~Contact.FirstName~,

It takes a lot to shock me...

... and Prince dying without an estate plan was DFEINITELY one of those things.

The brilliant artist was such a control freak over his music and legacy; so much so that he fought the transition to internet-based music sales and digital download access every step of the way.

So why didn't he have a Will or Trust to protect his valuable music catalogue and his estate?

Obviously it wasn't a lack of money. He had plenty.

It wasn't that he didn't have access to a good attorney. He could work with the cream of the crop in his state.

So what was the problem?

Basically it was the same thing that I see happen in average families: he suffered a complete mental block about estate planning.

You see, it's hard to think about a time when you may be sick, incapacitated, or pass away... let alone plan for it.

And when you find yourself needing help in the middle of one of these life crises, it can sometimes feel like the very professionals you need to work with (lawyers, CPAs, financial advisors, etc.) are just preying on your family's wealth and taking advantage you in a weak moment.

The result? The individual or family does nothing. Just like Prince.

In fact, you and Prince might have more in common than you realize in this area.

Please take the time to read the feature article below. It's the legacy that I hope you will gleam from Prince's life and how you can learn from his biggest mistakes to better protect your family and your wealth.

Have a great month,


P.S. Reports recently surfaced that actor George Lopez had to loan Prince’s family money because all of his assets are now tied up in probate. See, when you die without an estate plan, your kids or other family members who count on you for support are not able to access the inheritance you’ve left behind for them for months... or even YEARS. The Probate process is so long and unpredictable that you can literally bankrupt your family in this “waiting period.” BUT probate is entirely optional... if you have a trust you can avoid it altogether! Why wouldn’t you want that benefit for your loved ones? Some food for thought...



The REAL Reason Price Didn't Have a Will... And Why YOU Might Have the Same Problem, Too

Following the shocking death of Prince, folks across the country were equally shocked to learn that the musical genius died without a Will or Trust in place to deal with the distribution of his fortune and valuable music catalogue when he passed away.

Dying without a Will in his home state of Minnesota now means that Prince’s wealth will likely be distributed among his six siblings... but only after more than half likely gets distributed to his other newfound family member, Uncle Sam. Yikes!

Obviously it wasn’t a lack of money stopping Prince from creating an estate plan to protect his assets and wishes if something happened to him. He had plenty of cash and access to high-powered lawyers in his own home state and across the country.

So what was the problem?

Well, according to a news report from TMZ, Prince was afraid to work with an attorney to get his affairs in order.

He bounced from advisor to advisor and professional to professional out of fear of being taken advantage of.

He didn’t want to subject himself to misguided information.

And he feared being preyed upon by professionals with ulterior motives.

Before you write Prince off as crazy or paranoid, believe it or not, this is exactly what stops average families from getting their affairs in order, too.

Maybe they don’t have millions of dollars in the bank and an impressive music catalogue like Prince did, but they hold on tightly (and rightfully so) to the money and assets they do have... much of which they’ve worked hard for decades to acquire.

It’s only natural, then, that when faced with a crisis such as an illness, incapacity, the blending of a family, a divorce, a lawsuit, whatever, a general fear tends to rise up in folks that the attorneys they are meeting with to help them create a plan to protect their assets and families might be taking advantage of them or simply don’t have their best interests in mind.

Perhaps they have sticker shock at the basic cost of a Will or Trust. Or they may feel like the attorney or advisor is just preying on them during a weak moment in their life.

In any of these scenarios, what ends up happening when someone has these feelings is that they freeze from the fear and end up doing NOTHING. Just like Prince.

As an estate planning attorney, I’m not going to say that these fears are completely unfounded. There are bad eggs in every bunch, including attorneys and financial advisors.

But the fallout of not protecting your family with a proper estate plan does not outweigh the risk and fear of being taken for a ride! If you want to be certain that everything you’ve worked so hard for actually goes to your loved ones and not the government when you are gone, you’ve got to plan.

If you want to make sure your kids are raised by only the people YOU WANT if you unexpectedly pass away, you’ve got to plan.

If you desire to keep your life’s work safe from nursing homes, creditors, predators, lawsuits, and divorce, YOU’VE GOT TO PLAN.

You even need a plan to ensure your medical wishes are honored as you want. Here’s another area where Prince likely dropped the ball.

As a Jehovah’s Witness, he was opposed to any form of blood transfusion. But did he have that legally documented? Because if he did not, and was incapacitated in the hospital for any length of time, his next-of-kin sister might have decided to go ahead with a transfusion. And it would have been perfectly legal, even though it was against everything he believed in.

I hope I’ve made it clear that you NEED to have an estate plan. Every adult does. It’s not an option.

And the good news is that you can take steps now to AVOID being taken advantage of or sold products or services that you really don’t need, whether by an attorney or other type of financial advisor.

The key is to start your planning BEFORE a crisis strikes.

My best advice would be to start interviewing attorneys and local professionals while you are still healthy and have the mental capacity to make your wishes known. Your end-goal should be to compile a team of advisors that you know, like, and trust to support you and your family during all of life’s transitions.

Don’t be afraid to compare services, compare costs (note: cheaper does NOT always mean better in this area), and even compare office procedures for each attorney. Ask tough questions like:

  • How do you bill? Is it hourly or on a flat fee basis? Will I get a bill for every phone call, email, or fax to the office?
  • What happens if I call two years later with questions about my estate plan? How will you accommodate me?
  • How do you ensure that my plan continues to work as my life and the law changes through the years? (If you don’t keep your documents updated, they won’t work!)
  • What happens if you close your office or die? What happens to my file?
  • Will you coordinate the planning efforts we are embarking on with my other advisors so everyone is on the same page?
  • How do you handle updates to my plan in the future?
  • What happens if my goals or circumstances in my life change? What if I get sick or move into a nursing home? Are there trigger provisions that will allow us to deal with a crisis in my plan?
  • How will you support my family when I pass away?

If you take the time to find a professional that can answer these questions to your satisfaction, that has as great reputation, and is someone that you seem to “jive with” before there is a crisis in your life, you will feel much more confident and secure to lean on that professional during trying times that may arise in the future.

Sadly, Prince did not follow through in this area, but you can.

Begin to build your team of advisors, right now... at this stage of your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, whether you are young or old, if you have kids or not. Start to build your “A” team. Make it your goal to spare your family from the court costs, taxes, public scrutiny, and fighting they would otherwise face if something happened to you.

Take your time to do “meet and greets” and interviews with area advisors. Go to every free workshop that is offered in your area to find that person that you connect with.

And once you feel comfortable with your team, make the plan. Legally protect your assets, your family, and make your wishes known. Don’t ever let fear stop you from doing the right thing by your loved ones when you can start NOW to take concrete steps that mitigate any risk or loss of control.

You are worth it, and so is your family. Let this be the real legacy (beyond the music) that Prince leaves behind to you and your loved ones today.



Christine Recommends

Estate Planning
Essentials Workshop

Estate Planning Essentials: "How to Use Wills & Trusts to
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June 16th, 2016
3:00 pm

Executive Offices of Torrance - (Refreshments Served)
21151 S. Western Avenue, Suite 153 * Torrance, CA 90501

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About Christine Brown

Christine BrownChristine received her bachelor's degree from U.C. Santa Barbara and is a 1992 graduate of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She is formerly a partner in the law firm of Popeney, Lebetsamer & Brown, LLP. In January 2002, she opened her own law firm which concentrates solely in the area of elder law. Her special emphasis is on Medi-Cal long-term care planning and the concerns of the elderly, while also applying her extensive experience in estate planning, trust administration, probate and conservatorships.

Christine is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the South Bay Bar Probate and Estate Planning Section, as well as other community organizations concerned with the needs of older adults. As an active member of her community and State Bar, Christine volunteers regularly at various Superior Court Probate Departments in assisting the public with legal issues. She works regularly with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform ("CANHR") and the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center.

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