Aretha, Not You Too! Your Legacy: Be Sure It's Written Down


Aretha, Not You Too! Your Legacy: Be Sure It’s Written Down

                        Prince courtesy of Culture Culte @Flickr.com

Hi friends. I'm still trying to figure out my new Flamenco outfit, but I'll be back next week.

In the meantime, Aretha Franklin recently passed. Here's my post about her and storytelling. And guess what? She didn't have a will. Really. What a mess she's left for her family and loved ones. Reminds me of another famous artist who did the same thing...

My guess is a few of you have no idea what the hubbub is about. Here’s a guy who went by one name, who then wanted to be known by a bunch of symbols, only to return to his given first name, “Prince.” People wearing purple? Bridges lit up in purple? TV news specials about him?  Well friends, Prince was not everyone’s cup of tea. He had some pretty salacious lyrics (none of which you’ll see here…that’s what Google’s for). In fact, we can thank Prince for having parental warnings slapped on recordings – and let’s just say that probably increased his sales exponentially.

But, he was an amazing performer (watch his 2007 performance at the Super Bowl or how he shreds the guitar a little past the three-minute mark at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction). He was complex, spiritual, eccentric, and brilliant.
What floors me, is that word came out yesterday that Prince might not have left a will. He cared about this world and, as his lyrics indicate, he was looking forward to the afterlife. He had lawyers all around him. But he left his legacy in question because he may have failed to plan.
Just this morning, Billboard reported that if there is in fact no will, “…if Prince's taxable estate is valued at [conservatively] $250 million…the icon's heirs could be looking at a bill for about $120 million in state and federal estate taxes.” Perhaps even more disconcerting, “…it has been reported Prince was generous with his money and made financial contributions to several organizations, including Jehovah's Witnesses. But unless he had a written pledge to a charity, those gifts likely would stop if not provided for in a will and could even lead to legal fights.” And this doesn’t even begin to cover the issues around his intellectual property – something he fiercely wanted to protect.
Prince isn't alone in not being prepared: Almost 55% of American adults do not have a will or other estate plan in place.
So here’s what we have in common with Prince (and sorry, it’s not the millions of dollars you were hoping for): no one likes to prepare for the day they won't be here anymore. Methuselah just might be the going standard for how long you think you’ll live. But if for some reason you are taken at any time to meet the good Lord (which BTW will be a great day) you don’t want to leave behind a complete mess for your descendants. And, my guess is that you also don’t want someone else, let alone a court, deciding where your estate should go.
Here are two – just two – kindly suggestions:
Get your will done now. Yes, it will cost some money to meet with a lawyer (and I’m sure you can even find templates on-line) but do it. For all the above reasons and – especially if you are hoping others will be remembering your church or organization in their wills – so you can tell first-hand what the experience is like. After it’s written, be sure to keep it up to date (every five years) and, for heaven’s sake, let someone know where your will can be found.
Encourage others in your church or organization to get their wills written. Consider bringing in a local estate-planning lawyer to talk about the process. Most lawyers will do a program for free in hopes that they might get some business. Put a simple blurb in your newsletter, “Have you remembered this fabulous place/organization in your will?” Run it for a month. Take a month off and then run it again. People need to be reminded over and over. Do not grow weary with this reminder.
Prince’s music will be with us forever. But let his lack of planning be a lesson that you can learn from. So (and I just can’t help myself), “Let’s Go Crazy” - crank up the tunes, write that will, and remind others to write theirs too. 

This post was originally published on April 27, 2016

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She's been having her own dance party with Prince. She knows, it’s weird. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.