Ask an Advisor: Wills as a foundation for estate planning

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In this regular series we feature a professional from Bank of the West’s Wealth Management Group sharing a useful reply to a question that many of our clients have. Today Arlynne Siegel answers this question:

The possible issues around Prince’s estate are worrying. Is a will enough to avoid having a similar situation with my estate?

Middle-aged woman looking out at a lake, with a mass of reeds next to her. [1]The thought of death is not front-of-mind for many high net worth individuals, especially entrepreneurs.  But the recent death of music entrepreneur and superstar Prince highlights the necessity for detailed estate planning, part of which includes making a will.

Today’s family takes on many forms, and probate laws have not kept up with the times.  Passing away intestate (“without a will”) will not necessarily take care of the people, institutions and charities outside of a person’s blood line in the way in which the decedent would have preferred/wanted. Many times, expensive (and public) court proceedings are required.

It is also worth noting that every state has different intestacy laws, and not everyone is aware of how those laws may affect the division of assets.  As a matter of fact, if someone dies intestate with assets that are valued greater than the probate limits, a court proceeding will be necessary to transfer assets to the heirs, and this proceeding will become public knowledge. Additionally, if there is no will in place to provide for an executor or personal representative, state law may decide who serves in this capacity, and it may not be who the decedent would have wanted.

The role of an executor/personal representative is a very important role because it requires a very broad set of skills, including: managing varying types of assets (which may include real estate, corporations, minerals, oil and gas, artwork, collectibles, and large stock and bond portfolios) as well as addressing the needs of the varying family members and other beneficiaries.

Depending on the complexity of the estate, a bank acting as trustee – often working in conjunction with an executor/personal representative — may help ensure that assets are properly managed, tax laws are adhered to, and distributions are made appropriately to heirs.

In the case of Prince, family members and attorneys continue to search and are hopeful that a will is discovered.  In the interim, there may continue to be many decisions to be made and hurdles to overcome, including managing rights and royalties to his music, managing his business interests and estate taxes, ensuring his family members are properly taken care of, and ensuring his legacy continues through marketing his name to generate income for the estate.

A corporate trustee, such as a bank, may possess the knowledge and offer the service needed to manage an estate with varied types of assets and business interests. Bank of the West’s Global Investments & Fiduciary Solutions team provides trust and estate administration services – as well as possible coordination with legal and tax professionals — to assist clients with their estate planning needs. (NOTE: Bank of the West does not provide legal or tax advice.)

To learn more about Bank of the West’s Wealth Management Group or to find a private client advisor, click here [2].

Arlynne Siegel [3]


Arlynne Siegel is the Regional Fiduciary Officer for the Southern California region as part of the Global Investments & Fiduciary Solutions team at Bank of the West. Her banking experience spans more than 25 years, during which time she has managed various types of trusts and conservatorships of estates.

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