Published On

June 8, 2016

Like most people, I was shocked when Prince passed away at a relatively early age. Then when the news came out that he had not left a will, it made me think that there is a financial lesson in Prince’s death that could benefit many people. Let’s put it this way: whether or not you are a big fan of his music, Prince’s death might possibly change your life, or at least those of the people and causes you care most deeply about.

Some might find it hard to believe that someone so wealthy, and uniquely talented and smart could be so stupid to die without leaving a will. Then again, he was an artist not a businessman, and someone who embraced eccentricity. What is more surprising than Prince’s not leaving a will is that some of the sharpest business minds in the country are also guilty of neglecting their estate planning too.

In my role at TIGER 21 I’ve come to realize this kind of thing is surprisingly common. Although most of our Members have taken care of their estate planning, there seems to be a sizeable minority of Members who have not addressed it adequately. Our Members are highly successful business men and women who have created extra-ordinary businesses, often from scratch, and in that process have had extensive dealings with lawyers and legal issues, as I would suspect Prince did, as well. Maybe these levels of amazing success might be the very reason even people with huge estates have not gotten around to estate planning.

Too busy to die

In one Group session, we found that three out of twelve TIGER 21 Members did not have a will. How could 25 percent of such knowledgeable people fail to attend to such a basic responsibility?

One such person explained that he hadn’t made a will because he didn’t plan on dying. While he was being facetious (I think), there was an element of truth to that statement. People who are running at 100 miles per hour to make the most of their business opportunities or life can easily feel they don’t have time to stop and work through all the details involved in estate planning.

It’s almost as if people in this situation feel too busy to die ‚Äì though of course, death doesn’t care about ones priorities. Death makes its own schedule, and there are consequences if one’s estate is not in order when the grim reaper calls.


Dying without a will means that some of your financial legacy is likely to be wasted – perhaps in multiple ways, and an even bigger chance it may be misdirected.

Not leaving clear instructions creates a strong possibility that your relations or those you most care about will end up fighting in court over who gets what. In the end, the result could be that some of your money may not go to the people or charitable causes you care most about. Worse, it means that a good chunk of that money will end up in the pockets of lawyers representing the various parties, and there could be endless delays before those recipients who are most important to you receive what you would like them to have.

Besides unnecessarily incurring what could be huge legal fees- paid by all concerned, neglecting estate planning can mean giving the taxman a bigger share of your wealth than is necessary. The wealthier you are, the less the standard estate exemption will represent as a percentage of your legacy – so the more money you have the greater the absolute and relative cost of not having an up to date estate plan.

Positive peer pressure

Seeing this reinforces for me the value of the peer-to-peer learning culture of TIGER 21. Creating wealth is a great accomplishment, but it brings with it responsibilities to manage risk, pursue sensible tax strategies, and create effective estate plans. By providing a platform for people in similar circumstances to share their insights on these challenges, TIGER 21 allows its Members to benefit from each other’s experiences.

Sometimes that peer-to-peer experience comes in the form of knowledge, but at other times it can simply be a friendly push to take care of responsibilities like estate planning that can easily get neglected in the day-to-day rush of busy lives focused on professions, families or artistic pursuits. Think of it as positive peer pressure – seeing that even people as busy as you are can take care of those details may help you realize that you should make time for it as well.

While you may be much closer to the business mainstream than Prince was, there is decent chance that you too have not yet made a will, or at least have not updated your estate plan in recent years. If that’s the case, let Prince’s dying intestate be a timely reminder not to let the same thing happen to you.

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this

So sue me if I go too fast

But life is just a party and

Parties weren’t meant to last

“1999” by Prince

Barbara Goodstein SignatureBarbara GoodsteinPresident & CEO of TIGER 21