I regularly make radio appearances as the Love Lawyer on a Ft. Myers Rap/Hip-Hop Station called WBTT. The charming host recently asked me a question relating to Nate Dogg. Not only is it relevant but my answer serves to provide a valuable lesson.
Here is the question: "Just like rich people, when rappers die, there is all kinds of money in the estate with people fighting over it, so how is it properly dispersed?"
Although I am not convinced that Nathaniel Hale a/k/a Nate Dogg was wealthy when he passed away, my reasoning stems from a website set up by the infamous, Snoop Dogg, who is not related to Nate Dogg. Snoop created a website asking people to donate for the expenses of the service and financial security of Nate's family. If Nate had a lot of money, then it would not be necessary for Snoop to request donations from the public. Actually, Snoop has enough money to keep Nate's family financially secure and, in my humble opinion, Snoop needs to skip the trust fund, help the family and call it a day.
Nate's death was not sudden but was unexpected. Nate was divorced at the time of his death but had four (4) sons. So, assuming there were funds to distribute and Nate died without a will, then Nate's assets generally will pass by what is referred to as "intestate succession." This is a statutory scheme that directs the disposition of assets upon death. These laws will vary from state to state. In California where Nate passed away, his estate will be distributed to his sons in equal shares.
However, if Nate had a will and trust for his sons, Nate (or any parent) may exert more control over when those funds are distributed or for what purpose the funds are used, such as college or other support. A trust may also be created to save taxes, if possible. The will and trust may appoint someone to manage the funds, rather than leaving it up to chance.
Most people do not want to think about death. But there is a simple lesson to be learned. This lesson immediately came to mind when I learned about Soulja Boy's 14 year brother, Deion Jenkins who was recently killed in a car accident. If Soulja Boy gifted Deion substantial assets and spoiled him as I am certain he did, if there was not a will or trust, there may be legal problems in properly dispersing the estate or worse, dealing with creditors.
Let's take the lesson further just to illustrate the importance of thinking about death. Who does not remember the horrible case of Terry Schiavo? This was the heartwrenching legal fight between the comatose Terry's parents on one side and her ex-husband on the other side. Terry did not have a healthcare power of attorney that gave someone the power to make medical decisions for her. Nor did she have a living will that instructed the doctor to pull the plug. Her parents and ex-husband could have avoided the legal battle if only Terry had adopted two simple documents.
So after reading this article, will you learn the lesson or leave your estate to chance...
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