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Celebrities who died without a will: Tupac Shakur

One of the great misunderstandings that people have, based on our experience meeting with clients and potential clients alike, is that only rich people have wills. What rich means to you may be different than what rich means to me, and so on, but you get where I’m going with this. Folks will come into our office for a free-of-charge consultation and they will tell us that they had been thinking about a will for years but assumed that they didn’t need one because they were too young, poor, or indebted or anything else to have a will created. They were waiting until a later time to have a will created. Ostensibly this waiting would go on until he or she struck it right or got their lives together.

Where do we get the idea that only wealthy people have wills? I think television and movies influence a great deal in this regard. Think about all the media you have consumed in your life and how much of it involves situations involving people dying and their wills becoming an issue. I can bet you dollars to donuts that most of these scenarios involve a wealthy-looking, older man or woman and their families who were early anticipating the contents of that will be read aloud now that the testator (person who created the will) had passed away. Entire movie and television show plots revolve around this subject.

I can’t blame most people for thinking that only older and wealthy people have wills. There is no class on estate planning in high school or college. Estate planning calls to mind a person’s death and that is not something that anyone likes to think about. For all these reasons, estate planning is far from a subject that is widely discussed or even well-known. This is a major mistake for us to fall into as parents, siblings, and children. It is best when we have a plan for our lives. We complete budgets, consider switching jobs when it is to our advantage and do any number of things that are classified as planning for the near future. However, estate planning seems so far away and in any event, is unpleasant to consider.

How does all of this relate to estate planning for someone like Tupac Shakur? I am going to go out on a limb and assume that very few people reading this blog post are internationally famous rappers. Most of us reading this blog post are everyday citizens who go to work and care for our families. At first glance, it would seem like most of us have very little in common with Tupac Shakur. However, his situation and our own may be more similar than you would think. When you get down to it, the composition of his life was likely very similar to the composition of our own in terms of basic responsibilities, family units, and things of this nature.

In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to examine the situation involving Tupac Shakur and how it may be more familiar to us in our daily lives than we would think at first glance. Without knowing Mr. Shakur personally, we will need to make some assumptions about what he was going through at the time of his passing as well as who and what made up his life nearly 30 years ago when he passed away. Certainly, we can all view his situation as being a cautionary tale for all of us when it comes to leaving things incomplete without having a chance to make things right and whole.

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week where we can help you better understand what it means for your family to create an estate plan and how your legacy can be highlighted by taking seriously these responsibilities. No matter where you are in your estate planning process, we have the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys you need to feel confident about where you are in your journey toward creating a will or trust.

Knowledge is power

Someone like Tupac Shakur probably did not spend much time thinking through matters related to his estate. That’s not to say that he didn’t spend any time planning his estate but likely he had more on his mind at the time of his passing than his estate. Even though you may not have the schedule or responsibilities of Tupac Shakur you probably have day-to-day responsibilities and work that trump estate planning matters. You certainly would not be the first person to presume that you have more than enough time to create an estate plan for yourself. However, you have an immediate concern which is of greater importance in your opinion.

The reality of the situation is that it is wrong to presume that you will have more than enough time to plan for matters related to your estate. There are several reasons that we can go through to put this statement to the test period however, we can say that there are some aspects of our lives that we cannot predict with any degree of accuracy. This specific moment and place of our passing is one of those elements.

Tupac Shakur died at the age of 26. Even if he thought that he was going to pass away as a young man he may not have considered that this was going to happen to him on the specific date he ended up dying. For that reason, someone like Tupac Shakur could be left unprepared for his final moments. The importance of this for him and his family cannot be understated. All his accomplishments and what wealth he had as a man in his mid-20s could be compromised due to his not having engaged in estate planning.

Think about your legacy

Tupac Shakur undeniably is a man who passed away and left a legacy. To music lovers, he was the voice of a generation. He combined wit, talent, intelligence, and a rhythm that was something to behold. His hit songs are still played to this day. Urban music performers cite Tupac frequently as someone they looked up to for inspiration. In short, Tupac Shakur wasn’t just another performer. He was someone who was a unique talent whose music would be popular in any generation.

That is the Tupac Shakur that most of us think about. However, on a human level, Tupac was a man who left behind a family when he passed away. Almost as famous as the shooting which left Tupac Shakur dead at the age of 26 is the conspiracy and fan theories associated with his passing. The legend of Tupac Shakur has almost surpassed who he was as a performer now that we are coming up thirty years after his passing. With so much talent left behind it is difficult for us as the public to think about him as a man who had a family, possessions, debts, and other items in his estate. Do you know exactly how you want your estate to look when you pass away? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Tupac Shakur probably didn’t either.

That is one thing we hope that you all can take away from today’s blog post. No matter what stage of the estate planning journey you are on, or if you have started that journey at all, it is worth mentioning that Tupac Shakur was first and foremost a human being. If you are interested, you can find information online about how his mother and father played a role in his estate and how it was ultimately distributed after his passing. Tupac died with no children and no spouse, so his parents ended up in a position to be his primary heirs.

While Tupac did not die in Texas nor was he a Texas resident, we can discuss how his property would have been treated in this state had he died without a will. First, dying without a will is a bad idea because it takes autonomy from you and gives it to a probate court judge. A probate court judge will look to the Texas Estates Code to determine who your heirs are. There is essentially a flowchart contained within those statutes which tells a judge how to divide the property. Spouses, children, and parents tend to be the most likely persons to inherit property from a deceased individual.

What does this mean for you? Well, even though Tupac did not die as a married man or father you may be married and have kids. For their sake, it is best to have a will. Yes, if you die without a will in Texas and are married your spouse and children would tend to receive most if not all your property. However, you do not want to leave anything to chance. You may have specific conditions you would like to be fulfilled by an adult child before he or she can receive property from your estate. For example, you may want your son to graduate from medical school before he can receive his portion of a certain sum of money or a particular item in your art collection. This is a hypothetical situation, but our point is that you are in control when you die with a will.

On the other hand, if you die without a will, you are hoping that a probate court judge applies the law correctly and equitably toward your family. I keep talking about family because dying without a will means that you will not have an opportunity to benefit the lives of friends, neighbors, your church, or a charity. The Texas Estates Code and its laws on intestate distribution (distributing property for a person who dies without a will) do not take into consideration a situation where the property of yours could go to anyone besides a spouse, children, parents, siblings, or extended family. Heirs will be searched for if you have no immediate family. However, if an heirship search comes back with no family, then the State of Texas would be able to take possession of property and assets.

How does that strike you? The State of Texas receiving property that you worked hard to accumulate and build. If you have no immediate family, then this is a distinct possibility. Again, if you want to leave all your assets to the Lone Star State, be our guest. However, our position on issues like this is to at least be intentional about the decisions you make. Do not wander into a bad decision or even a good one. Rather, be intentional about what you are doing in any area of your life that is important. Wandering into the drive-thru at your favorite fast-food restaurant is one thing. You can only do so much damage there. However, when you wander into a situation about your estate you increase the likelihood that damage can be done which cannot be undone. Or, even if you can correct a mistake, It can cost you time and money to do so.

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Meaning- if you can avoid a bad outcome, it can be even more valuable than finding a cure for whatever ails you. This saying usually applies to your health, but we think it is just as applicable to the health of your estate and your financial life. If you can be intentional about your estate planning, then you can avoid putting yourself and your family in a position where you need to take steps toward addressing problems created by your prior actions. This is true whether you are Tupac Shakur or anyone else.

Tupac Shakur died without a will. Don’t follow his lead

Ultimately, the biography of Tupac will not feature his dying without a will anywhere close to the top of his list of accomplishments or the most important effects of his life. Rather, his music will be his legacy. You and I probably don’t have gold records or cultural impacts like Tupac has. Rather, our legacies are going to be defined by other factors. Luckily, we don’t need to have the wealth of Tupac to leave a positive legacy for our families and those around us. All we need to do is have a plan.

That plan starts with figuring out what matters to you. This is called “finding your why.” Why are going through the trouble of reading a blog post from an estate planning lawyer? You could be doing something more mellow and enjoyable like listening to some of Tupac’s hit songs. Instead, you are here filling your brain with knowledge about family law. That tells us something- you have someone, something, somewhere that matters to you. Estate planning is not about you as an individual. Rather, you are planning for others. That is a legacy-defining move.

Once you have figured out what your “why” is you can move on to figure out what your goals are. How are you going to benefit these people, groups of people, or entities? What do you need to do now? What can you wait on? There are a lot of questions that you will need to answer. Finding those answers can be difficult even in an environment where you have access to the internet and a seemingly never-ending supply of websites, blog posts, videos, and podcasts. Where should you start?

From our perspective here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we think there is no better place for you to begin looking than a free-of-charge consultation with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We are attorneys who practice estate planning law and serve clients just like you every day. Our job is not to tell you how to plan your estate. Rather, it is to help you better understand the laws and circumstances of estate planning to help you make better decisions for yourself, your family, and those around you.

We like to think that we have the heart of a teacher here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. By helping you better understand the world of estate planning we hope that you can become more comfortable with the idea of participating in the process. Remember that what you do in estate planning is not going to benefit you- at least materially. However, the noble act of estate planning is something which you can gain peace of mind concerning. What you do now can echo through future generations almost like one of Tupac Shakur’s hit songs.

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