Half Nelson 

Celebrities have good reason to be wary of the people around them; there are countless examples of trusted associates taking advantage of their wealth and their fame.  So when superstar musician Prince died, it wasn’t surprising that he died without a will.  He was, after all, famously mistrusting of lawyers.  

But, as previously pointed out in this space, refusing to engage an attorney for estate planning can be quite expensive, especially if you are wealthy.  For Prince, that price is seemingly much higher than any scam might have inflicted upon him.  According to experts, roughly half of his estate will go to pay state and federal estate tax,  though he could have avoided paying nearly all of it through proper estate planning involving trusts to shelter it from the taxman.  “The reality is there are only three options,” says Robert Strauss of the Los Angeles estate law firm Weinstock Manion. “There’s family and friends, there’s charity, and there’s Uncle Sam. And most clients would rather that Uncle Sam got less.”

As for not trusting lawyers, there are protections in place that may have reassured Prince.  In Texas, as elsewhere, lawyers are prohibited from drafting a will in which they personally benefit unless the client is related to the lawyer.  And there are rules against overcharging the client, which every reputable estate planning lawyer is well aware of.  These conflict of interest rules work to ensure that the estate planning lawyer’s only incentive is what it should be – to do a good job for the client at a reasonable price.     

It’s unfortunate, because Prince – as he should have – did not want others to profit off his talent and hard work.  And now they will.

Posted: 1/19/2017 9:29:52 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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