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Keep business needs in mind for estate planning

Sometimes, estate planning is about protecting the things you've built in this life so that they can go on to serve others. Often, we think about how our wealth or assets might serve our heirs when we are gone, but if you've built a business or product, then you should make plans for it so it can continue to serve your customers in a way you're comfortable with.

While not a business, the Prince estate provides an example of this type of estate administration. The pop artist has a long list of songs that can continue to serve his fans, but someone has to administrate those creative works. You might have read that Prince didn't leave a will behind and his estate is currently in probate court, where it's been for months. Because of the large and complex nature of his estate, it will probably be in probate for some time. The court has been working for months simply to identify all the potential heirs to the estate.

Meanwhile, the business of the estate hasn't stopped. When business is linked to an estate, it's not usually feasible to simply "stop the presses" on activity until probate matters are resolved. In the Prince example, a temporary administrator was court appointed, and that administrator has negotiated an agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group to manage the song catalog associated with the estate.

This isn't a surprising move, since UMPG had the contract to manage Prince's catalog at one point when the artist was alive. It's familiar with the product and the staff there probably have an idea about what type of decisions Prince might make.

If you have a business, you can ensure someone who is aware of your wishes and likely to follow them ends up in charge. It's called succession planning and should be part of the estate planning work you do with a lawyer.

Source: The Fader, "Prince’s Estate Signs Exclusive Publishing Deal With Universal Music," Will Bundy, Nov. 02, 2016

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