Amy Winehouse was a controversial but talented British singer who died of accidental alcohol poisoning at the “too young” age of 27 in 2011. She also died “intestate,” meaning that she did not leave a valid will. Her former spouse who she was quite close to at the time of her death received nothing. She might have wished it otherwise, but she left no will so her estate passed by law to her “natural heirs” as determined by law which did not include her ex-husband or her siblings. Instead, her divorced parents were entitled to the bulk of her estate and her Dad was appointed the administrator of her estate shortly after her death. It’s tragic enough to lose a child but being the administrator of your child’s estate adds to the grief.
Adding to the tragedy of her death is the fact that 3 years after Amy’s death her parents are still settling her accounts. They have been forced to use much of Amy’s wealth of some $7 million or so to settle bills and debts and taxes. Amy had 6 music companies to account for and her parents have taken out loans to cover the costs of dealing with her personal and business affairs. Sales of her music after her death should help their financial situation but as her Dad has noted “it’s been “an incredible drain on our resources. We had to have a lot of security and it cost us an absolute fortune”.
A basic will or a trust, would have ensured that Amy Winehouse’s estate would be passed to the person of her choice which may or may not be the same as those designated by the default rules of the legislature. A basic will or trust might have also saved a lot of estate taxes by allowing assets to pass outside of probate via beneficiary designations and/or trusts. And…some basic organization to her estate might have saved her parents additional grief that comes with trying to track down details and settle final accounts.