When the music died…

Obviously, this is a reference to Don McClean’s famous song “American Pie” of several famous musicians’ deaths from a plane crash in 1959.

Arguably, in the past 2 years, we have lost the most music icons in modern history.  George Michael, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, and Glen Campbell were hugely popular and influential performers who have recently passed away.

Looking at two of these lives and deaths could be helpful to everyone. Glenn Campbell’s journey ended with his death at age 81 from Alzheimer’s disease in which his final and very public condition was brought to the public’s eye especially during his Farewell Tour in 2014. This highlights the need to have documents like a financial Durable Power of Attorney to allow someone you trust to handle your financial affairs (e.g. paying bills, business dealings) during a person’s life. A healthcare representative appointment was needed access to his medical records and the ability to make healthcare decisions for him once he was unable to do so.

Another death highlights the need for death planning. Prince died without a Last Will and Testament, Trust, or beneficiaries on his estimated $300 million estate. Prince died without any estate planning. Six potential heirs are fighting in court with the probate judge describing this estate proceedings as a “personal and corporate mayhem.”

What can we learn from these public celebrity deaths? Make sure you have considered and executed the following:

  • Last Will and Testament and/or Trust. Make sure your final wishes are put in writing and properly executed and witnessed; and if you have minor children, a stand-by guardian appointed over them; if you want to control your estate from the grave, consider a Trust.
  • Health Care Representative and/or Living Will. Make sure to have a person appointed who has access to your medical records and could make medical decisions if you could not. Also consider a Living Will if you want to document your wishes if you have an incurable disease, illness, or injury and what level of medical treatment/nutrition/hydration you want.
  • TOD or POD. Execute Transfer on Death or Payable on Death on the property to pass directly to a named heir(s) without probate.
    Make sure you have a primary and contingent beneficiaries list on your life insurance, annuities, and retirement accounts.
  • Make sure to pre-plan and/or pre-pay your funeral and designate whether you want to be an organ donor.
  • Create a written list of your accounts, passwords, and online activity so heirs will know where to look in the event of your passing.

This list is merely a rough guide to start the planning process. Each person’s journey in life and final plans would obviously differ. We can’t all be celebrities, but we can be better prepared than many celebrities were at death despite their wealth and counsel.