Sadly, Lou Reed—lead singer and guitarist of The Velvet Undergound and successful solo musician—passed away late last year. It has recently come to light that his estate plan was lacking important provisions that would have better protected his family.
Reed joins many other prominent public figures whose inadequate estate planning has led to potential losses, including Michael Jackson, James Gandolfini, James Brown, and others.
According to Forbes, Reed’s estate is worth tens of millions of dollars: about $20 million from copyright, performing, and publishing royalties; $9 million in real estate; and $10 million in other assets.
Reed’s 34-page will split the $10 million in assets between his wife and sister, with $500,000 given to his sister to use for the care of their mother. His wife will receive the bulk of the estate (75 percent) as well as the $9 million in real estate and his personal property.
The $20 million in royalties was earned after Reed’s death.
Lou Reed had only a will, which is surprising given the size of his estate. For people who expect to leave a large estate, a will usually isn’t enough—even if it was a 34-page will, like Reed’s. A trust (among other estate planning assets) is generally advisable in these cases.
Why is a trust often better than a will, especially for people with a high net worth?
A trust is private, which can be very important for some families. Wills, on the other hand, must go through probate court, which is public.
The NY Post and other publications have been digging through the Reed family’s filings in probate court, reporting on how much the estate is worth, who gets what, and more.
While most people’s financial business won’t be splashed all over the tabloids, they may appreciate that trusts provide privacy from any prying eyes.
In addition to being public, probating a will can also be time-consuming and expensive. The two co-executors of Reed’s will are each getting $220,000 as their fee. This is because being an executor is work: it involves notifying all relevant agencies of the person’s, death, paying bills, taxes, and debts, filing an inventory of the estate’s assets with probate court, and distributing assets.
There are many good reasons to avoid probate. However, it’s important to talk to an estate planning lawyers about your options and whether you need more than a will to get your affairs in order.
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