Prince didn't have a will?

Prince didn’t have a will?

Never overlook this key step of financial planning

(Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images)

(Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images)

In the wake of Prince’s death last week, a surprising piece of information has surfaced about the late singer-songwriter’s will: namely, that he possibly didn’t have one. According to E! News, the musician’s younger sibling has taken legal action to ensure that his estimated $300 million in assets is distributed.

That someone with so much wealth could not have taken the necessary steps to ensure that his intentions for his estate were legally carried out is somewhat baffling. The simple truth is, drawing up a will is a key part of sound financial planning—it’s the first and most important step in protecting those you love.

In fact, most people don’t realize that without a will your spouse doesn’t automatically inherit your estate upon your death. Dying without a will—known as “dying intestate”—means the government may get to decide who your beneficiaries are and how your assets will be divided up. (This is especially important if you and your partner are not formally married: Common-law spouses do not necessarily have the same property rights as legally married spouses.)

For most people, having a will created won’t be a complex or expensive endeavour. But it’s best to seek the advice of a lawyer, rather than use a do-it-yourself will template. While the latter is better than nothing, it can be easily contested in court and challenging to complete. Thankfully, a basic will prepared by a lawyer can cost as little as $500 and take just half a day to complete.

For more step-by-step advice on estate planning—from wills to insurance to probate—be sure to check out our comprehensive guide here.