The untimely death of music star Prince recently hit headlines all over the world. The music star died intestate, that is, he left no valid will.

With an estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which will no doubt grow substantially as album and memorabilia sales rocket, it leaves one to wonder as to how his substantial estate will be divided.

With one sibling and five half-siblings, it is expected that his estate will be divided amongst them equally, as set out under the law in Prince’s home state of Minnesota.

Although no disputes have been reported (yet) in relation to who gets what, such a case proves the huge importance of creating a valid will, regardless of the size of one’s assets.

It is just as important to make your wishes known in death as in life.

Prince is not be the first multi-millionaire celebrity not to leave a valid will.

It would seem that even people who have acquired extreme wealth, which most people could only dream of, put making a will on the long finger also.

Why?

We all have a natural reluctance to contemplate our own death and sometimes, we are unsure how best to divide our assets.

However, making a will can, surprisingly, give one great peace of mind, knowing you have safeguards in place to protect your nearest and dearest.

I have written extensively in previous articles on the rules that govern how an estate is divided, in the event that there is no valid will.

I will briefly recap here.

If you do not make a will, the law dictates who is entitled to your assets.

The rules set out a list of people who are entitled to receive shares in the deceased’s property, as well as the amount of these shares, and the order in which they are entitled to receive them.

Some of the rules are as follows:

* Where the deceased leaves a spouse/civil partner only, the entire estate passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner.

* Where the deceased leaves a spouse/civil partner and children, the spouse/civil partner inherits two thirds of the estate and the children inherit the remaining one third in equal shares.

* Where the deceased leaves no surviving spouse the estate is divided equally between the children.

* Where the deceased dies without a spouse/civil partner, children or parent, the estate is divided between his or her brothers and sisters in equal shares.

* Where the deceased dies without a spouse/civil partner, children, parent, brothers or sisters, all nephews and nieces take equally.

* Where there are no relatives, the state takes the entire of the estate. This is extremely rare.

The rules are best illustrated by some examples:

* Patrick died without making a valid will. He leaves a wife and four children surviving him. As a result of not making a will, his wife is entitled to 8/12ths of his estate and his children are entitled to a 1/12th each.

* Mary died and did not leave a valid will. She was living with her partner (cohabitant) for over 10 years prior to her death. She did not have any children.

Her parents passed away years ago.

Her brothers and sisters take her entire estate in equal shares.

However, in this case, there are provisions available whereby her cohabitant can make an application to court to be provided for out of Mary’s estate, depending on the circumstances.

However, her cohabitant has no automatic entitlement.

Basic Payment Entitlements

On a slight detour, but still in keeping with the theme of inheritance, recently calls were made to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to clarify the situation of entitlements under the basic payment scheme, with regard to the administration of estates.

If the issue of entitlements is not mentioned in a will, who do they pass to?

The Single Payment Scheme was introduced to Ireland in 2005 and operated until December 31, 2014.

Single Farm Payments were not attached to land, but to the deceased farmer.

As such, where payment entitlements were not specifically mentioned in the will, they formed part of the residue of the estate, and passed to those entitled to the residue (which is the part of the estate left over after deduction of specific bequests, devises, tax, debts etc).

This resulted usually in a person who was not farming receiving the payments — which would not have been the intention of the deceased, in most cases.

In 2015, the Basic Payment Scheme was introduced to Ireland. Questions have been put to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to confirm the position, as to what happens when a will is silent in relation to Basic Payment Entitlements.

It is advisable to specifically mention in your will who the entitlements are to pass to.

If you wish for the entitlements to pass to the person who is to receive the farm, this should be expressly stated.

I will update you as soon as the Department has clarified the position.

Karen Walsh, from a farming background at Grenagh, Co Cork, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths, 17, South Mall, Cork.

  Telephone: 021-4270200 

  Email: info@walshandpartners.ie 

  Web: www.walshandpartners.ie 

While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.


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